Coronavirus: Germany’s Angela Merkel urges ‘solidarity and reason’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said “solidarity and reason” were central to the country’s response to the virus.

“The virus is in Europe, it is there, and we must understand that,” Merkel said at a press conference to discuss the country’s response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2) outbreak.

About 60% to 70% of people in Germany are likely to be infected because the virus is new, there is no vaccine or treatment, and the population has no immunity, Merkel said, repeating comments made ahead of a coalition government meeting on Tuesday.

Measures would be directed toward protecting the elderly and people with preexisting health conditions — as these groups are most at risk from the virus.

Later on Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis accused the chancellor of spreading panic with her 60-70% figure.

“I don’t want to comment on the situation in Germany, although I believe such statements rather cause panic. In any case, we have adopted strong measures for such worst-case scenarios to be out of the question,” Babis was quoted by Czech news agency CTK as saying.

Experts have warned that panic could exacerbate issues facing healthcare systems dealing with the crisis.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Food donations drop

    Panic-buying has left empty shelves in supermarkets — and food banks. With Germans snapping up canned goods and toilet paper to weather the outbreak, stores have fewer supplies left over to donate to the needy, said Jochen Brühl, head of Tafel Deutschland, which supports more than 1.5 million people with surplus groceries and other donations. Brühl encouraged those who had overreacted to donate.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Ghost games for the Bundesliga

    Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged that all events with more than 1,000 participants be called off. The German Football League (DFL) has said it plans to consult with clubs and authorities to decide whether teams will play matches in empty stadiums, saying health was a “top priority.” Fans have already been barred from Wednesday’s Bundesliga match between FC Cologne and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Culture cancellations

    Cultural life has also taken a hit, with major fairs and trade shows canceled or postponed. Among the casualties was the Leipzig Book Fair and the Musikmesse Frankfurt, Europe’s biggest music trade fair. Clubs and galleries have put off events across the country, and the gala award show for the annual German film and television award, the Goldene Kamera, has been moved to November.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Most schools open, for now

    Unlike in Italy, schools across Germany remain open, though there have been localized closings in certain hot spots. The German Teachers’ Association has estimated that around 100 schools and day care centers across the country were currently affected. Baden-Württemberg’s education minister said the state was preparing for the possibility of postponing school leaving examinations.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Not the ‘Wuhan flu’

    The Chinese origin of the virus has led to an increase in xenophobic sentiment in the places worst hit by the outbreak. Asian restaurants and stores — not just Chinese — have reported empty tables in Western countries like the US and Italy, and people with Asian features have experienced discrimination. At a recent Bundesliga game in Leipzig, a group of Japanese fans was ejected from the stadium.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Flights grounded

    German airline Lufthansa has reduced its flight capacity by 50% because of the coronavirus outbreak, grounding 150 planes and canceling some 7,100 flights through the end of March. The airline said its summer schedule will also likely be cut back. The cancellations are due in part to decreased demand: business travel is down, with more people working from home and avoiding unnecessary travel.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Car production crippled

    Car plants in China have been shut down since January, and major German automakers like Volkswagen and Daimler have said both sales and production have been hit by the epidemic. And with many automakers sourcing electric car parts from China, work at plants in Germany has also hit a stumbling block. Berlin has said it plans to financially support companies suffering coronavirus losses.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Fewer tourists

    “The consequences for the German tourism sector are serious,” warned Guido Zöllick, head of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. In a recent survey of its members, 76.1% have reported a sharp decrease in bookings and a drop in revenue. In Berlin, the German parliament has announced that tourists won’t be allowed to access the glass dome of the Reichstag building until further notice.

  • How is coronavirus affecting life in Germany?

    Border checks

    After Italy and France, Germany has the largest number of coronavirus cases in Europe. In an effort to prevent further spread, authorities in Poland and the Czech Republic have begun spot checks, measuring the temperature of travelers crossing main road borders out of Germany. Poland plans to extend the controls to other railway and port crossings.

    Author: Martin Kuebler

Read more: Coronavirus, cold, or flu symptoms: When should I see a doctor?

How will Germany respond?

Germany’s response will focus on ensuring that police, critical infrastructure and medical personnel can continue to their work in a bid to ensure that health services will not be overwhelmed. 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn repeated his call to avoid major events, soccer games or club visits. He advised facemasks and disinfection spray was not necessary for people to avoid being infected, saying that intensive hand-washing with soap was enough to stop infections.

A meeting is planned for Thursday between the premiers to discuss the state-level response to tackling the virus.

Economic measures 

Merkel announced plans for economic measures to shield business and industry from the effects of the virus, including a liquidity package to be discussed this week.

She suggested a break with the government’s “black zero” policy of not taking on any new debt, saying: “We won’t be asking every day what that means for our deficit now.” She added: “It is a special situation. We will do what is necessary.”

Germany’s budget committee had already pledged €1 billion ($1.1 billion) to tackle the outbreak, said Merkel, repeating Tuesday’s announcement.

Read more:Opinion: What happens next after the coronavirus stock market crash?

‘More people will die’

Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s public health body, warned of more deaths and severe cases of illness in Germany.

“Of course, more people will die here, too,” he told reporters. 

Wieler said the virus, which remains largely unknown, wasn’t spreading like a wave, but through specific regions. The slower the virus spreads, the better the chances of finding a treatment or developing a vaccination, he added. 

There are more than 1,600 confirmed cases in Germany and three people have died in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to figures published by Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center.

kmm,es,ls/dj (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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