German Politicians Reject Swift Easing as Deaths Top 30,000

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German officials ruled out a rapid lifting of the nation’s coronavirus restrictions as the country’s death toll from the disease ticked above 30,000.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that Germany “must not risk everything we have achieved with quick easing, otherwise it will start all over again.”

“If the lockdown does not have a sufficient effect, the measures must be tightened,” he said, adding that a “third wave” must be avoided “at all costs.”

German cases and deaths have been on the rise since October, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to impose a harder shutdown -- with schools and non-essential stores shuttered -- until at least Jan. 10. Germany joined European Union partners in starting vaccinations on Sunday, but officials have said it will take months for the program to have a tangible impact on the spread of the disease.

“I expect that we will have to extend the measures,” Manuela Schwesig, the state premier of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said in reference to the nationwide lockdown. “We are not through this yet,” she said in an interview with Bild newspaper.

Germany has recorded several hundred coronavirus-related deaths each day in the past few weeks. The number of fatalities rose by another 351 in the 24 hours through Monday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, after having crossed the 30,000 mark for the first time on Sunday. Total cases exceed 1.65 million.

Seehofer, a member of the Bavarian sister-party to Merkel’s CDU, accused some senior colleagues of failing to recognize the seriousness of the pandemic. Merkel pushed for tighter restrictions to be introduced earlier, but faced resistance among the heads of Germany’s 16 states.

The virus curbs from October onward were “inadequate” and some top officials, including regional leaders, “simply underestimated the gravity of the situation,” Seehofer told Bild.

“You can only get the spread of a highly infectious and potentially deadly virus under control with rigorous countermeasures,” he said, adding that Germany still lacks “satisfactory solutions” for schools and public transport.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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