German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged solidarity among citizens in a speech on Wednesday evening, calling the coronavirus the nation’s biggest challenge since World War II.
“The coronavirus is now changing life in our country dramatically. Our idea of normalcy, of public life, of social interaction — all of this is being tested like never before,” Merkel said in a video speech broadcast nationwide.
“So let me say this: it’s serious. Take it seriously too,” Merkel told the citizens, noting that “There has been no such challenge to our country since German Reunification — no, since World War II — where common solidarity is so important.”
Merkel said the guideline of all actions now is to slow down the spread of the virus and stretch it over months so that time is saved for researchers to develop drugs and vaccines and to make sure those who get sick can be cared for in the best possible way.
Germany has largely shut down schools, kindergartens and closed cinemas, clubs and gyms, as well as introducing stricter border controls with neighboring European countries.
For companies and small businesses, shops, restaurants and freelancers, it’s already very difficult and would be even more difficult in the next few weeks, Merkel said. She reiterated that the federal government is doing everything it can to cushion the economic impact and save jobs.
She called on German citizens to accept the current restrictions and stand by each other, act heartily and sensibly, adding that “this is a historical task and it can only be accomplished together.”
According to data from Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the federal disease control authority, the number of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Germany was 8,198 as of Wednesday, 1,042 more than the previous day.
RKI President Lothar Wieler on Wednesday warned of a worst-case scenario with up to 10 million coronavirus infections in Germany in two or three months’ time if people did not limit social contact as advised.
“We have exponential growth,” German media WELT cited Wieler as saying during the press conference. “We are at the beginning of an epidemic that will be on the road for many weeks and months.”
Also on Wednesday, Mitterteich, a town with a population of 7,000 in southern Bavaria became the first German town to impose a curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Residents are still allowed to buy groceries, go to work and visit the doctor, according to local authorities.