Merkel’s politically dangerous sentence on Corona

Merkel's politically dangerous sentence on Corona

© WELT / Matthias Heinrich
In view of the rapid spread of the corona virus, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) spoke at the federal press conference. 60 to 70 percent of the population could be infected, said Merkel, citing experts. Source: WELT / Matthias Heinrich

The appointment at the federal press conference proved that the corona epidemic is an extraordinary crisis. Angela Merkel (CDU) actually only comes here once a year to talk to journalists about this and that and that shortly before the summer holidays. But never only on one topic.

Now she came to answer questions about the Corona crisis alone. This is without an example. The Chancellor did not even appear when she changed her energy policy; it did not come when thousands of migrants crossed the open borders; she did not come to explain the end of her term as CDU leader.

In the past few days, Merkel has again been faced with those allegations that she has already faced on these occasions: it takes too long to take control of the action on the one hand and is hesitant on the other hand to do what she does to people to explain. Commentators had therefore held up a lack of political leadership in view of the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

One should not assume that Merkel would be impressed by such assessments, in fact necessary, to finally go public. It often just waits too long for the right moment. In this case, from their point of view, it was a video conference of the EU heads of state and government on Corona – the first video conference in the history of the European Council. On Tuesday evening, the Council exchanged views on how to combat the epidemic.

To date, Merkel has not wanted to see that what she considers prudence is perceived by many citizens as indifference or leaving you alone. So it was in the refugee crisis. In 2015, the Chancellor refused to visit an asylum seeker for weeks; that would be “someday safe”, she indicated internally. Only when radical right-wing attacks on the home there took place in Heidenau, Saxony, did Merkel allow himself to be visited – just in Heidenau. Too late, from the perspective of many.

You can follow all current and worldwide developments regarding the corona virus in our live ticker.

Merkel herself also regards her reaction to the refugee crisis as clearly too hesitant today; but above all she means dealing with people who have long been sitting on packed suitcases in Turkey; not dealing with their own policies in the German public. It must be shown in the course of the epidemic whether the appearance at Corona is perceived as being too late, in time or even too hasty.

It may be the last sentence Merkel said that will last the longest. “We will do what is necessary – as a country and in a European network.” What is “necessary” can be discussed and depends on the direct and indirect impact of the virus. It depends on whether you are young or old, sick or healthy, doctor or patient, subway or car driver, whether you are a football fan or sporty person, club operator or couch potato. In this respect, this sentence was at least as courageous and politically dangerous as the legendary promise “We can do it” that was made in 2015 during one of the usual summer press conferences. Incidentally, without provoking questions.

Merkel made it clear that the virus now had priority over everything else. She didn’t just mean restrictions on public life like that Cancellation of events with more than 1000 visitors whom she expressly welcomed. It also referred to the goals of the federal government, such as keeping the budget balanced, not taking on new debt, keeping the debt brake.

“We will not ask every day: What does this mean for our deficit? It’s an exceptional situation, ”she said. Everything was done to get through the situation well. “In the end we will take a look at: What did that mean for our household? The other thing is happening today. ”Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) added:“ We cannot leave those who cancel things alone. ”

Merkel announced liquidity support for companies affected by the aftermath of the corona epidemic economic hardship advised: “We do what is necessary.” People will do it “quickly”, “prudently”, “decisively”. The toolbox would contain a reaction to the predictable. Germany also deviates a bit from its line at the European level. For example, the European heads of state and government had agreed to handle the stability pact “flexibly”. But Merkel warned against taking advantage of the situation, doing things that you always wanted to enforce.

Border closures to contain the virus were rejected by Merkel as an “inadequate response to the challenges”. Her spahn and the president of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar H. Wieler, jumped in. “Lockdown is naive. The virus will come anyway, ”said Wieler. “It’s about slowing everything down. There will be a vaccine at some point. An immunity of the population will develop. “Spahn said about the spread of the virus:” Closing the borders across the board does not prevent that. It is in the country. ”Spahn does not want comprehensive school closures either. This leads to new problems if, for example, grandparents, who are at greater risk than older people, have to take care of childcare.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference on coronavirus in Berlin, Germany, March 11, 2020. REUTERS / Michele Tantussi

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference on coronavirus in Berlin, Germany, March 11, 2020. REUTERS / Michele Tantussi

Merkel defended herself against the accusation of having been silent for too long. “I have not only taken care of the matter since today. I make the decision based on the facts. The Council conference is a good opportunity. ”Spahn reported that the situation has been discussed again and again since January. “We always work very well together in the cabinet and now we do it much more intensely,” said Merkel and praised her minister: “I think that Jens Spahn does a great job in a difficult situation. I have complete trust, it’s a great exchange. ”Everyone can rely on that.

Angela Merkel is satisfied with her health minister Jens Spahn (both CDU) Source: dpa / Michael Kappeler

© dpa / Michael Kappeler
Angela Merkel is satisfied with her health minister Jens Spahn (both CDU) Source: dpa / Michael Kappeler

The Chancellor and the Minister of Health appealed to all government agencies to also work closely together. At the same time, they also warned that all people in Germany shared responsibility for containing the epidemic. “Solidarity, reason and a heart for others are put to the test. I hope we can pass this test, ”said Merkel. Both encouraged them not only to forego major events, but to ask themselves at every point in everyday life what could be done to slow the spread of the virus. Spahn posed the rhetorical question of whether club visits and dance events were absolutely necessary in the next three months. Most recently, 17 people were infected by a patient who was present in a Berlin club.

The Chancellor is scheduled to meet with the Prime Ministers of the federal states on Thursday. This should also involve uniform measures. So far, the decisions have usually depended on the health authorities. However, Merkel did not question the federal division of tasks: “We work with the legal situation that we have.”

Like the Minister of Health, she stated that the basic principle of all political action was to keep the health system functioning. “The procedure must be determined by the fact that we do not overload our health system,” said Merkel. Spahn also cited the “primary goal to slow down the spread so as not to overload the healthcare system. That is what guides us. ”The virus is there and you will have to deal with it. “The fewer people who get infected at the same time, the better the doctors can treat them.” Everyone would have to do without a bit of everyday life to protect others. It’s about “keeping the balance between cuts and an everyday life that goes on.”

In the end, Merkel had some practical advice for those present. The photographers should keep a little more distance, she warned. I also “look at how often you all have your hands on your face”. And instead of shaking hands, it is better to look “in the eyes and smile a second longer”.

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