1. GA-English
  2. News

Combating the pandemic: Merkel sees "reason for cautious hope”

Combating the pandemic : Merkel sees "reason for cautious hope”

Beautiful weather and days off at Easter time - still, people should observe the strict rules in the fight against the coronavirus. If they do so, there will be first steps taken to get back to everyday life. But Chancellor Merkel warns against carelessness.

Shortly before Easter, Chancellor Angela Merkel sees reason for optimism in the corona crisis, but she does not believe a quick return to normality is possible.

The statistics on the spread of the virus give " reason for cautious hope", said the CDU politician on Thursday. However, she said that when relaxing the strict rules for people and the economy, one must proceed in small steps and monitor the results. After Easter, federal and state governments want to discuss the current restrictions. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) called the Easter holiday a "fork in the road" that would decide whether rules could be relaxed.

Merkel said that it was not necessary at this point in time to further strengthen the current guidelines, and that one could be "very happy" about that. "We must not be reckless now, we must not lull ourselves into a false sense of security", the Chancellor warned. Her criteria remains that the health system should not be overburdened so that every patient can be treated. The increase in new infections has slowed down, but no one knows what effect a relaxation on the current rules would have. We will " have to live in and with this pandemic for a long time". Merkel did not say what this could mean for the summer holidays and vacations, but explained: "I am now thinking on a day-to-day basis”.

Minister of Health Spahn warned that the conduct of German citizens over Easter will be decisive: "If we remain consistent over the weekend, a gradual return to normality will become more likely. If we become careless now, the probability that an extension of the regulations will become necessary increases", he said. The changes in everyday life have had an effect. For example, he said that out of almost 110,000 infected people, there are more than 50,000 now recovered. The number of newly reported infections is flattening out.

However, Spahn said that it was important not to jeopardize these initial successes. For weeks and months to come, there will be no more visits to clubs or public festivals. Merkel also said that as long as there was no vaccine or medication against the virus, rules such as not shaking hands with anyone, hand hygiene and keeping your distance must be part of daily life. She said she was glad about the "basic mood" in Germany to join in and help others.

Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) also advocated a cautious approach to the way out of the crisis: "It is also better for the economy if we stay disciplined for a few days longer than if we start too early and then have to take back the easing of the measures," he said.

The government estimates that the demand for protective masks will remain high for months - billions will be needed, from simple everyday masks to special masks for medical personnel. The government has decided to enter into a procurement scheme and intends to use incentives to establish a domestic mask production facility. This is intended to reduce dependence on the Asian market.

Merkel left open whether the federal states should proceed uniformly in relaxing the corona rules - the situation concerning infections varies greatly, she said. She also said that she doesn’t believe in giving younger people more freedom while still prohibiting older people who are particularly at risk.

Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder pleaded for regional distinctions to be taken into account. However, "as much as possible should be done collectively", the CSU leader told the German Press Agency (dpa). "Unfortunately, individual countries are already pulling out. But we should stick to one approach in Germany." Söder warned again that loosening restrictions too early could take its toll later.

Lower Saxony's Minister President Stephan Weil (SPD) pleaded for a uniform approach as far as possible. The SPD politician told ZDF's "Morgenmagazin" television show that the situations in the federal states are very different, for example with regard to the number of infections. Still, it would be very helpful if the federal states "take the same steps in the same direction, so that there is no confusion”.

North Rhine-Westphalia's head of government, Armin Laschet (CDU), advocated a cautious return to a "responsible normality" in public life after Easter. "Nothing will be the same as before", Laschet said. "But as many of our freedoms as possible will be restored - with new considerations, new responsibilities and distance." The relaxation of the corona guidelines will be gradual and not come all at once. "But I am convinced that we should make this attempt after Easter.”

(Orig. text: dpa. Translation: ck)