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German Chancellor Merkel refused to set an end date for the nationwide restrictions on public life but noted that an apparent drop in infection rates was a good sign. The rules are key to preserving lives, she said.
As Germany and the world face the COVID-19 pandemic, next week's Easter holidays will be "completely different than any we had before," Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a video address on Friday.
Merkel warned that the virus was still quickly spreading through Germany and described the country's anti-pandemic effort as a "Herculean task." At the same time, she noted that the rise in confirmed infections "is now a bit slower than it was just a few days ago."
"It is true that the latest numbers... as high as they are, very cautiously give a bit of hope," she said.
However, it is "definitely too soon to recognize a definite trend, and it is way too soon to start loosening any of the strict rules we have imposed on ourselves."
The measures are "literally of life importance," she added.
'From the frying pan into the fire'
The 65-year-old leader addressed the public in a weekly podcast on her first day back at the Chancellery. She had spent two weeks in home quarantine due to contact with an infected doctor. Several coronavirus tests given to the chancellor were negative.
Addressing the nation on Friday, Merkel said she would be acting "absolutely irresponsibly" if she set a date for lifting the measures and the country was then unable to honor it.
In this scenario "we would go from the frying pan into the fire — medically, economically, socially," Merkel said.
The conservative politician urged Christians in Germany not the celebrate the Easter holiday in their usual way.
"For millions of Christians, Easter means going to church, spending Easter Sunday with the entire family, maybe taking a walk or making a celebration," Merkel said. "But not this year.
Time of worries
Under the current agreement between Germany's 16 states and the Merkel-led federal government, restrictions on public life and social distancing rules would stay in place until at least April 19. State and federal representatives are set to meet five days before this deadline and decide if the measures would stay in place.
In her Friday message, Merkel acknowledged it was a "worrisome time."
"There are concerns about your family, about your job, about how much our country will change," Merkel said. "We will do everything possible from the state perspective to make sure that as few of your worries as possible become reality."
dj/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters, EPD)