According to German daily Bild, Merkel told members of her conservative party that she is seriously concerned about the new Covid-19 variant that is causing major problems in the UK.
She believes if left unchecked it will lead to prolonged Covid measures.
“If we don't manage to hold off this British virus, we will have a 10-fold incidence by Easter,” she reportedly said at an internal meeting of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union.
“We need another 8-10 weeks of tough measures,” added Merkel, according to Bild.
However, three participants of the meeting told Reuters that Merkel had not explicitly spoken of an extension of the current measures, and that she had not warned of a tenfold increase in infection numbers in Germany.
“Merkel said the coming eight to ten weeks would be very hard if the British variant spreads to Germany,” one of the people said, adding the Chancellor had referred to a tenfold surge in infection numbers in Ireland due to the new variant.
Germany has been in a state of shutdown since November 2nd when the 'lockdown light' came into force. However, restrictions have got progressively tougher.
Now the rules, which have seen the closure of the hospitality industry and schools as well as non-essential shops plus cultural and leisure facilities, have been extended until January 31st.
However, the Chancellor, like Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder, has repeatedly stressed that even at the end of January there is no guarantee that the measures will be relaxed.
The aim is to bring the incidence (new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days) below the level of 50. Only then would the health authorities be in a position to track the contacts of people with Covid-19 again.
Worries over Covid-19 variants
Experts are increasingly concerned about the new variants – particularly, the mutation that originated in the UK. The number of infections there has skyrocketed in recent weeks.
Frankfurt virologist Dr Martin Stürmer issued an urgent warning about the new variant: “The variants B117 from England and N501Y from South Africa show that in Germany, too, we have to examine more gene sequences, look for mutations. This is technically possible, but it costs time and money.”
Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to order testing laboratories to check every tenth Covid-19 test for mutations by analysing the genome sequence data, according to a draft paper. At the moment, this examination only happens to about every 900th coronavirus test in Germany.