Merkel admits pandemic keeps her 'awake at night'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted Thursday that she has lost sleep over the pandemic, tossing and turning over "tough decisions" for a nation eager for relief from months of virus restrictions.
In a rare television interview, the 66-year-old also said she looked forward to the day when hairdressers can reopen, even if she has to come to accept that going grey is a fact of life.
"I do wake up at night sometimes and think about everything," she told German broadcaster RTL.
"This is a difficult time for me too, our decisions need to be clearly thought out and I turn things over and over in my mind before reaching a decision," she said. "It's hard to switch off."
Merkel said she saw a "small light at the end of the tunnel" as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to drop.
However, Merkel warned against "false hope" in the face of still-unknown factors such as the reach of coronavirus mutation from Britain, which has been detected around Germany.
'I always try to be realistic'
The veteran leader, who usually eschews talking about her personal feelings, said the pandemic hardships experienced by so many people, including families, artists and small-business owners, had left their mark.
"Again and again I have to make tough decisions. I too would like to have something good to announce," she said. "But we can't give false hope so I always try to be realistic."
When asked how she keeps her own hair coiffed even though hair salons in Germany have been closed since November, Merkel said she had the help of an assistant, "while of course respecting all hygiene regulations".
"And yes, one has to live with the fact of slowly going grey," Merkel added.
"I will be happy when hairdressers can reopen."
Merkel, who is stepping down this year after more than 15 years in power, is due to hold talks with Germany's regional leaders on Wednesday on whether to extend or relax the current shutdowns.
Germany closed restaurants, hotels, culture and leisure centres in November, before adding schools and non-essential shops to the list in December.
Hope on the horizon?
The EU's most populous country has recorded more than two million Covid-19 cases so far and some 60,000 deaths.
Health Minister Jens Spahn hinted on Thursday suggested restrictions could be lifted by spring 2021.
He said the goal for Germany remained "to prevent the health system from being overburdened -- and not to avoid every infection".
"To get it down to zero infections and keep it that way comes at a disproportionate cost in other areas of life," he said.
Almost three million older people and medical workers have so far received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with calls growing for new freedoms for those who have had the jabs.
On Friday, Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) registered 12,908 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours, and 855 deaths from or with the virus. Exactly a week before, the RKI recorded 14,022 new infections and 839 deaths within the same time frame.