Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged Germans to show endurance and discipline to get through the coronavirus pandemic that is “still at the beginning”, and called for a bigger European Union budget to support economic recovery in the bloc.
Merkel is worried that Germans are slacking off their social distancing efforts after the federal and regional governments agreed to reopen shops this week.
Germany has the fifth highest COVID-19 caseload behind the United States, Spain, Italy and France, but has kept fatalities down thanks to early and extensive testing.
Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 2,352 to 148,046, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed earlier. The number of people who have recovered is greater than the number of new cases.
“It is precisely because the figures give rise to hope that I feel obliged to say that this interim result is fragile. We are on thin ice, the thinnest ice even,” Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
“We are still far from out of the woods,” she said, warning:
“We are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning.”
Germany’s gradual easing of restrictions provides for social distancing rules to remain in place until May 3. Schools will start opening from May 4, with priority for final-year students. Hairdressers can also reopen then. Merkel and state leaders will meet again on April 30 to review how to proceed after May 3.
“If we show the greatest possible endurance and discipline at the beginning of this pandemic, we will be able to return to economic, social and public life more quickly and sustainably,” Merkel said.
Turning to the EU’s response to the economic impact of the virus, Merkel said calls from some EU countries for common debt with common liabilities were not the right way to go.
“That would be a very difficult process, cost time and wouldn’t even help anyone in the current situation, since we need rapid-fire instruments to tackle the crisis,” she said, instead calling for a European economic package aimed at supporting an upswing in the coming two years.
“Our consultations today won’t yet be about be nailing down details or deciding on the extent but one thing is already clear: In the spirit of solidarity, we should be prepared – over a limited period of time – to make very different, meaning much higher, contributions to the EU budget,” she added ahead of a videoconference with EU leaders later on Thursday.