German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the coronavirus pandemic would worsen in coming months, and that life would not return to normal until a vaccine against it had been developed.
Her government has so far also managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, introducing rigorous testing that has helped keep cases and deaths relatively low.
But, in common with the trend across much of the world, the country’s new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks.
Merkel and regional leaders agreed on Thursday to keep Germany’s schools open, ban major events until at least the end of the year, and toughen quarantine rules for travellers returning from high-risk countries.
But as Merkel makes preparations to step down before the next national election in October 2021, she made clear that she expects the pandemic to define her last year in office.
Urging citizens not to drop their guard against the virus as Germany’s daily infection rate rises, she told a news conference: “This is a serious matter, as serious as it’s ever been, and you need to carry on taking it seriously.”
She stressed on Friday she would continue to focus on battling the pandemic, rather than preparing for retirement.
Asked if she had booked her post-chancellorship dream vacation yet, she said: “This is not the time to book such trips. I am fully occupied with the current time.”
Nobody could foresee how the situation would develop in the winter, she said.
“We only know a little bit about the virus… Whenever we know something new we will need to take new measures. It’s going to be an ongoing process.”
Meanwhile, she said further contracts for COVID-19 vaccines were “in the works” between drug companies and the European Union, whose rotating presidency Germany holds until December.
With none of the many vaccines under development having yet passed through phase III trials, the European Commission this week secured at least 300 million doses of British drug maker AstraZeneca’s potential treatment.
Germany has recorded over 241,000 COVID-19 infections and at least 9,350 deaths.