Germany is ‘in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic’, says Merkel aide

Germany has to take control of the infection rate in the next few weeks or risk new vaccine-resistant mutations, said Angela Merkel's chief of staff on Sunday.

Germany is 'in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic', says Merkel aide
Merkel's chief of staff warns it's essential to get the virus under control now - or start from scratch with vaccinations. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

“The next few weeks will determine whether we can foreseeably get the pandemic under control,” top government aide, Helge Braun, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

If the number of coronavirus cases increase sharply again, there is the danger that the next virus mutation could be resistant to the vaccine, Braun warned.

 “Then we would need new vaccines, then we would have to start vaccinating all over again,” he added.

In addition to bringing down infection rates, Braun, who is also a doctor, recommended imposing night-time curfews in areas with high infection rates.

Regions that would qualify for this restriction are areas where the number of cases exceed 100 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days: “That’s where regional curfews in the evening and at night can help, because we have the highest infection rates at meetings in people’s homes,” he said.

The rising Coronavirus cases over the past week in Germany.

READ ALSO: One year on: The charts and maps that explain the state of the pandemic in Germany

The government aide also recommended that companies test all employees for Covid-19 twice a week.

Germany is facing a steep rise in coronavirus infections, in part pushed by a combination of the new variants of the virus and moves to ease restrictions.

After public criticism, Merkel reversed her plans for a strict Easter lockdown to stem a third wave of Coronavirus infections.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) speaks to German Chief of Staff Helge Braun. (Photo by Markus Schreiber / POOL / AFP)

The measures were widely seen as the strictest the country had experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. They were intended to last from Thursday 1st April until Monday 5th April and would have seen most of public life closed, including supermarkets, on all days except Sunday.

Following a backlash and calls for a vote in confidence, Merkel did a U-turn, citing that the lockdown could not have been implemented well enough.

READ ALSO: LATEST: Berlin refuses to go back into hard shutdown despite high infection rate

However, Braun said harsh restrictions over Easter were crucial to reduce the cases of infections. On Saturday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 20,472, while the death toll rose by 157, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Despite his calls for urgent action, Braun is optimistic about the chance of a “normal summer” and expects the infections to be under control by May, thanks to a combination of the vaccination rollout and the warmer weather.

“By Whitsun (May 23rd) we will see the first positive effects – provided the situation doesn’t get out of hand by then,” he said.

Braun’s plea comes after Health minister Jens Spahn asked people in Germany to “ideally” only meet outside in the run-up to Easter.

Current rules allow for gatherings of up to two households, or five people excluding children under the age of 14. The measure also applies over the Easter holidays, which remains in place from Friday April 2nd to Monday April 5th.

READ ALSO: This is Germany’s five-step plan to head out of shutdown

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‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.