Erika Solomon in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the pandemic was still a serious concern in Europe’s largest economy despite a slowdown in infection rate, but said she expected an economic “growth spurt” in the coming year.
Speaking at a conference held by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday, Ms Merkel acknowledged she had wanted but failed to get state leaders to agree to stricter measures at an hours-long meeting the previous day.
Under Germany’s federal system, health policies are largely decided by states, and they have struggled in recent months to reach consensus on tighter measures. Last night, Ms Merkel and state leaders postponed decisions on new restrictions for the coming winter months until November 25.
The chancellor expressed optimism about an economic recovery in 2021, but said another reason for not acting more quickly and taking stronger measures was her belief it would also ultimately be more economically costly for Germany.
Pushing for the “democratic imposition” of such restrictions, she said, was among the toughest decisions of her 15 years as chancellor.
“We are learning in and with the pandemic,” Ms Merkel said, noting that while infection numbers were no longer growing exponentially, they were still too high to control the virus’s spread. She was particularly concerned about the continued uncontrolled spread of the virus in Berlin, she said. “Every day counts in fighting coronavirus.”
The Robert Koch Institute said the number of daily confirmed cases reached 14,419 on Monday, which is less than a week earlier. But the death toll was comparatively high, having jumped to 267 from 154 a week ago.
Germany got through the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed. But the total number of confirmed cases has risen by 50 per cent since the end of October, from 520,000 to around 800,000 now, while the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs has increased by 70 per cent in that period.
In late October the government decreed a “lockdown-lite”, closing all pubs, restaurants, gyms and theatres for the whole month of November while keeping schools and businesses open.