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Merkel at Bundestag: ‘We Are Walking on Very Thin Ice’

In Berlin, Chancellor Merkel told the Bundestag she was worried about the way the federal states within Germany were implementing the easing of the Corona restrictions. “Let’s not gamble away what we achieved”, she said.

“By being strict with ourselves, we have slowed down the spread of the Coronavirus”, Merkel said at the Berlin Bundestag. “We have bought time and used it to strengthen our health system.” The chancellor said everyone knew the reports about the terrible situation in hospitals abroad. It was her government’s role to make sure this would not happen in Germany.

Strengthening the Health System

The Chancellor thanked Health Minister Jens Spahn and everyone else for their efforts to reinforce the health system which had withstood the burden until now. The number of ICU beds with respirators had been increased, Merkel said. She also thanked doctors, hospital staffers and members of the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces, who had helped as well.

At the parliament in Berlin, Merkel also talked about close to 400 local health offices all over Germany during her official government statement. The government and the federal states had decided to give those offices more employees, also because they were needed to trace the contacts of individuals infected with the Coronavirus. She mentioned the Robert Koch Institute’s containment scouts who have the same task.

What the acquisition of protective masks is concerned, Angela Merkel said there were good reasons why it was being coordinated centrally now, by the government. “The pandemic has taught us that acquiring protective gear from faraway lands is not good.” For that reason Germany was working on establishing its own production.

Cooperation with Africa

For now, masks and similar items are being brought to Germany from China. On Wednesday, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer told the Bundestag there was a weekly freight train from China all the way to Germany. Millions of masks would be transported that way.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also announced an increase of Corona testing capacities her government was working on. And she mentioned Berlin’s support for research. The Corona crisis could only be ended if a vaccine was available, Merkel said. All over the world, researchers were working on it.

Merkel stated science was never a national endeavor. It was self-evident that any vaccine or medication against the Coronavirus would have to be available – and affordable – all over the world. For Germany, the cooperation with Africa was extremely important. Experts fear, millions of Africans might be infected with the Coronavirus within months. For that reason, Berlin is calling for a giant European aid package.

‘Provisional Result is Fragile’

In this regard as well, the World Health Organization was an indispensable partner, the Chancellor stressed. To Germany, the cooperation with the European Union, the G7 and the G20 was important too.

What the situation in Germany is concerned, Merkel said there were indicators and numbers provided by the Berlin-based Robert Koch Institute (RKI) which had taken the right direction. Those numbers had led to hope. But there was only a provisional result, a fragile one. “We are walking on very thin ice”, Merkel said.

She stated she was worried about the implementation of decisions her government and the federal states had taken last week. It had been rather “forceful”. She meant that some federal states may have gone too far too quickly by adjusting the rules their way.

‘Long Distance Run’

Merkel stressed Germany needed to be disciplined, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. That way, the country would be able to return to a normal social life and a sound economy sooner. On the other hand, if Germany moved from one shutdown to the next, it could be forced to isolate groups of people at some point, and its health system might be overburdened.

“Let’s not gamble away what we achieved or risk a setback. This is a long distance run”, Merkel told the Bundestag. “It is the biggest test in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

European solidarity was another subject Merkel talked about. “Our efforts can only be successful if they are being coordinated with Europe”, Merkel said. She stated German hospitals had treated more than 200 patients from the Netherlands, Italy and France and helped fellow Europeans in other ways. “For us in Germany, the affirmation to Europe is public policy”, the Chancellor stated.

Merkel had another warning: She said the pandemic was not hitting everyone in the same intensity. “If we don’t watch it, the crisis will benefit those who want division.” In this crisis, one of the tasks was to show “who we want to be in Europe.”

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