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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel urges Germans to get vaccinated amid ‘exponential growth’ of Covid infections

German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her last summer press conference before she steps down to call on people in Germany to get vaccinated amid rising Covid-19 infections.

Merkel urges Germans to get vaccinated amid 'exponential growth' of Covid infections
Chancellor Angela Merkel at the press conference on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“The infection figures are rising again and with a clear and worrying dynamic,” Merkel said in one of her last federal press conferences before she steps down at the September election.

“We are seeing exponential growth,” she said, adding that the Covid fourth wave is already emerging. 

Germany has seen low infection numbers over the summer compared to many of its European neighbours, but cases have been creeping up over the past two weeks, largely fuelled by the Delta variant.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency on Thursday recorded 1,890 new infections over the past 24 hours and an incidence rate of 12.2 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days — up from a low of 4.9 in early July.

Merkel said she expected cases to double in the next two weeks. “With a rising incidence rate, it could be that we need to introduce additional measures,” she said. She did not rule out pulling forward a meeting with state premiers scheduled for the end of August if it was needed. 

IN NUMBERS:

Merkel said she wanted to use her appearance on Thursday to promote Covid vaccinations. She said “every vaccination… is a small step towards a return to normality”.

“Vaccination not only protects you, but also someone near you, someone you love,” she said. “Vaccination also protects against the measures [that restrict] our everyday lives…the more vaccinated, the freer we will be – individually but also as a community.”

The only way out of the pandemic in the long run, she said, is vaccination. “The more people are vaccinated, the more are protected against a severe course (of Covid),” she said.

Merkel urged people to talk to each other about vaccination “at the workplace, at the football field” to encourage everyone to get their jabs. She said she was calling on “everybody already vaccinated to convince the others to do it as well”.

Higher vaccination rates now make it possible to deal with higher infection rates, she said but added: “Preventing the health system from being overburdened remains the guiding principle for our actions.”

Germany began easing pandemic restrictions in May and has now reopened restaurants, shops, pools and museums, as well as easing limits on public and private gatherings.

As of Thursday, 60.4 percent of Germans had received one jab against Covid-19, with 48 percent fully vaccinated.

Flood tragedy 

In Merkel’s last question and answer session, the Chancellor also talked about the western German flood tragedy.

Merkel said there would be joint effort from the whole country to deal with the severe weather disaster in western Germany.

“We will need considerable effort to repair all this damage,” said Merkel. She talked about the terrible devastation from the flooding, and how Germany was mourning the loss of more than 170 lives.

The goal is to jointly finance the flood damage, Merkel said. The German government is setting aside €400 million in emergency aid. In the coming days and weeks discussions will be held with German state premiers on how to organise a joint reconstruction fund, Merkel said. 

READ ALSO: Why Germany faces tough questions over disaster response

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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