BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday urged Germans to stick to rules aimed at controlling the new coronavirus, such as wearing masks, to ensure schools can stay open and that Europe’s biggest economy continues its recovery from lockdown.
A rise in cases in the last couple of weeks has caused alarm among some virologists and politicians in Germany, and Merkel made clear that now was not the time to let up.
“The good news is, if we stick to the rules, a lot of public life is possible,” Merkel said on a trip to the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
“If the numbers go back down we can open up more. If they don’t, or rise, we must ask what is needed and in any case a further easing of measures cannot take place now,” she said.
Health Minister Jens Spahn told lawmakers that the next ‘carnival season’ – a series of public celebrations and other events which start on November 11 and end in mid-February, should be cancelled due to the pandemic, parliamentary sources told Reuters.
Germany has managed to keep the number of coronavirus cases relatively low compared to many of its European neighbours but the number of confirmed cases reported by Tuesday rose by 1,390 to 225,404, the Robert Koch Institute said.
The reported death toll is 9,236.
Welcoming stricter controls on people wearing masks in public places and shops, she said travellers returning from risk areas had to have a negative test or else go into quarantine.
“This is not optional regulation – it is a must,” she said.
Laying the rise in infections on greater mobility and more contact between people, especially large gatherings which have caused local outbreaks, she made clear she wanted to keep the economy working.
“For us, the priorities are firstly to keep economic life going as much as possible and to protect jobs – that’s why we have stimulus programmes and secondly to make (running) schools and nurseries possible,” said Merkel.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Gareth Jones)