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Merkel defends strict pandemic restrictions

January 21, 2021

Chancellor Angela Merkel said there were reasons for optimism at this "difficult stage of the pandemic," but she stressed that Germany must work with the EU to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Angela Merkel wearing a face mask, about to address the media
Angela Merkel called for strict coronavirus measures across the EUImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture-alliance

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was "in a difficult stage of the pandemic," though she highlighted reasons for optimism. Germany extended its current lockdown to at least February 14 on Tuesday, reflecting the high daily infection rate and death count. 

"On the one hand, the number of daily infections is gradually going down," Merkel said at a press conference on Thursday. "And the number of people in intensive care is going down. This is all good news." 

Merkel said the coronavirus regulations would have positive long-term results for education, culture and the economy.

"But the virus is still very dangerous. We have a shockingly high death count, more than 1,000 people today," she said.

Merkel spoke about the danger of the mutations of the virus and said genome sequencing of new variants would be the main topic of discussion at the European Union's video conference on Thursday evening. 

"Epidemiologically the EU is one region," she said, calling for equivalent measures to fight the virus across the bloc. 

German vaccine program will ramp up

Merkel said the possibility of herd immunity in Germany with the vaccine program was out of her hands — that would depend on how many people chose to be vaccinated. The World Health Organization has estimated that 70% of a population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity; about 1.5% of Germany's population has been vaccinated so far.

Merkel said the country would have "more than enough vaccine doses" in the course of this year and expressed optimism that production could be ramped up.

The chancellor also hoped for vaccines for younger people. More younger people have been affected by this wave of the pandemic than in spring 2020.

"This pandemic is the disaster of the century. Patience is being put to the test," Merkel said.

She also addressed concerns about the international inequality of vaccine distribution access across the world, saying that international cooperation will be key to ending the pandemic.

Are border closures on the EU agenda?

Kommentarbild PROVISORISCH Elliot Douglas
Elliot Douglas Elliot Douglas is a video, audio and online journalist based in Berlin.