Angela Merkel outlines plans for European Health Union
The German Chancellor said the threat posed by new coronavirus variants spreading at a faster pace than the original meant the country was “sitting on a powder keg”. Mrs Merkel warned things could “easily” turn for the worse in the coming weeks. The German leader also said the reopening of the retail sector planned for mid-February may now be delayed, warning it was “not assured”.
Mrs Merkel is also believed to be considering new travel restrictions – further impacting the country’s economy.
According to the German daily Bild, Mrs Merkel told regional officials: “You can introduce a 15-kilometre exclusion zone, but it is difficult to ban travel around the world.”
She added: “We have to thin out air traffic so that you can no longer go anywhere.”
Lufthansa might protest against this but the risk was “great”, said the Chancellor.
The Chancellor is reported to be pushing for stricter regulations.
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She said: “We have to be even stricter, otherwise we’ll be back where we were in 14 days.”
To get the pandemic under control, Germany needs to push the incidence rate below 50 in order to suppress mutations.
The vaccine gave the “prospect of an end”, Mrs Merkel said.
The German leader also criticised the health authorities in the internal meeting, according to Bild.
“They were obliged to introduce standardised software in November,” said the Chancellor.
But only a third of the offices are currently connected to the system.
“There are many excuses.”
Mrs Merkel had been quoted weeks ago by the same newspaper warning the hard lockdown might have to last until Easter.
She had denied this statement.
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But now she has reportedly said: “We have to open up the other way around than we decided.
“First daycare centres and schools should be allowed to open, then shops and only then restaurants.”
The number of new infections in Germany is currently falling slightly. The number of daily deaths has also recently declined – but is still at a high level.
But outbreaks of the new virus mutations, including in Berlin, are causing concern. These were brought to Germany mainly via trips abroad.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 6,408 to 2,148,077, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.
The reported death toll rose by 903 to 52,990, the tally showed.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday backed European Union proposals to introduce restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines leaving the bloc, saying Europe should have its “fair share”.
The EU has proposed setting up a register of vaccine exports amid frustration over delays in deliveries of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot and other supply problems.
“I can understand that there are production problems but then it must affect everyone in the same way,” Mr Spahn told ZDF television.
“This is not about Europe first but about Europe’s fair share,” he said, adding it therefore made sense to have export limits on vaccines.
AstraZeneca told the EU on Friday it could not meet supply targets for its vaccine up to the end of March – a further blow to the EU’s pandemic efforts after Pfizer announced a temporary slowdown in supplies in January.
Mr Spahn said it was encouraging that the number of new coronavirus cases was falling in Germany and, if that trend continues, a decision can be taken on what to do about restrictions.
“One thing is clear, schools and nurseries were the last to close and if there is an easing of restrictions, they will be first (to re-open),” he said.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
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