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Germany mulls coronavirus memorial service

September 5, 2020

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said Germany should consider honoring those who have died of COVID-19. His remarks come as the number of coronavirus cases has seen an uptick in the past few weeks.

Bundespräsident Frank-Walter Steinmeier beim Gottesdienst in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Soeder

German president moots COVID-19 victims' memorial

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has suggested that Germany should hold an official memorial for those who have lost their lives to the pandemic, because many of them had to die without their loved ones by their side.

"A corona death is a lonely death," Steinmeier told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland media group on Saturday. "We need to help people with their grief, and think about how we express our sympathy."

Those infected by the disease are required to be treated by health care workers in isolation to ensure that the virus doesn't spread. This means that those who die of the novel coronavirus often do not get a last chance to see their family.

Steinmeier said he needed to talk to other government bodies before confirming that a memorial ceremony could be held.

Read more: Germany: Bavaria beset by fresh coronavirus test backlog

"We have 9,300 dead to mourn," he said. "That is three times as many deaths in six months as our annual death toll from traffic accidents. We shouldn't overlook that."

Steinmeier added that focusing on the numbers won't comfort those who have lost a loved one.

Isabella Heuser-Collier, a professional psychologist at the Charite hospital in Berlin, told DW that it is too soon to hold a memorial.

"If somebody has lost a loved one without he or she being able to be at the bedside, that is a horrible horrible scenario," before adding that reminding people of that fact now, before the pandemic is over, would not be helpful.

Uptick in coronavirus cases

Steinmeier's comments come amid rising COVID-19 cases in the country. The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's center for disease control, reported Saturday that it had recorded 1,378 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, bringing Germany's overall case count to 248,997. There have been 9,324 virus-related deaths in Germany since the first case was recorded in the country earlier this year.

Despite a new spike in cases, most Germans support the government's response to the pandemic, according to a new survey.

Of the roughly 1,000 people surveyed, 66% said they were satisfied with the work of the governing grand coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), the allied Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD).

A record 72% of respondents said they were satisfied with the work of Merkel herself. It is thought that a large part of the support is thanks to the government's proactive measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Read more: Coronavirus: Merkel's bid for unity hampered by Germany's federal system