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Merkel urges Germans to stay at home

October 17, 2020

Angela Merkel has called for solidarity as Germany enters a "very serious phase" of the pandemic. Germany has again set a new daily case record, as ministers call for thousands of additional contact tracers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) flanked by her team is walking away after a press briefing at the end of the second day of an EU Summit
Image: Thierry Monasse/dpa/picture-alliance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged residents to stay at home amid a dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus infections in Germany.

"We have to do everything we can now to ensure that the virus does not spread uncontrollably — every day counts," Merkel said in her
weekly podcast. 

"I ask you to refrain from any trip that is not really necessary, any celebration that is not really necessary. Please stay at home —  wherever you are, whenever possible," she said. 

Merkel said that Germany was currently in the midst of a "very serious phase" of the pandemic, adding that "the number of new infections is increasing by leaps and bounds every day."

"The comparatively relaxed summer is over; now we are facing difficult months. How winter will be, how our Christmas will be, will be decided in the coming days and weeks. We all decide that through our actions."

Read more: German president in quarantine after bodyguard tests positive for COVID-19

Bars, hotels hit by pandemic

She called on Germans to show solidarity and restraint, as they did in the early phase of the pandemic.

"What brought us so well through the first half year of the pandemic?" she asked. "It was that we stood together and obeyed the rules out of consideration and common sense. This is the most effective remedy we currently have against the pandemic and it is more necessary now than ever."

On Saturday, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said Germany recorded 7,830 new coronavirus infections in the past 24-hour period, a new record since the pandemic began.

The number of cases was nearly 500 higher than on Friday and more than 1,500 higher than the prior infection peak recorded in March.

New contact tracers

Germany plans to recruit up to 10,000 new contact tracers to help the country deal with the spike, Helge Braun, Minister of the Chancellory, said on Saturday.

"The need is enormous, a five-digit number of helpers will be required," Braun told the Rheinische Post.

Besides a Bundeswehr contingent of up to 15,000 soldiers, authorities will see "whether we have further personnel reserves in the Federal Government and subordinate authorities," Braun added.

The German army has made some 5,000 soldiers available for contact tracing duties at short notice and promised another 10,000 within a month.

Braun said he also hoped that a large number of students could be recruited to help follow up contacts.

Read more: Germany: Berlin court suspends bar and restaurant curfew

Testing expanded since March

Officials say testing capacity has been greatly expanded since the beginning of the pandemic and that is one of the reasons why the country is seeing a spike in infections.

A second wave also appears to be in full swing due to a Europe-wide loosening of restrictions over the summer.

Braun also noted that the country's coronavirus tracing app was seeing a "steep rise" in alerts to the public.

Read more: Coronavirus: Entire leadership of Germany's domestic spy agency infected

By Tuesday, the app had sent warnings to the anonymous contacts of some 10,860 users who had subsequently tested positive for the virus.

The app has been downloaded around 19.6 million times and experts believe it is being used by around 16 million people.

Braun also told the regional paper that he is in favor of holding a state ceremony to remember those who have died from COVID-19.

He acknowledged that relatives of the dead may have not welcomed comments made by ministers over the summer that Germany had come through the health crisis relatively unscathed.

"To them, I say that the victims of this pandemic will not be forgotten under any circumstances."

aw, mm/rs (dpa, EPD, AP)