Merkel Refuses to Close Border to Italy After Warning 58M Germans Will Get COVID-19
Chancellor rejects calls to block visitors from Italy travelling to Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is refusing to close Germany's border to visitors from Italy, despite warning this week that her government predicts up to 58 million Germans could contract coronavirus.
Merkel is rejecting mounting calls to block visitors from the worst affected countries as the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to spiral out of control.
The chancellor said she refused to close the border during a joint press conference held with Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn in Berlin.
During Merkel's first public address on the outbreak, the German leader warned that border closures would not be enough to stop the spread of the virus, according to Hungarian newspaper Mandiner.
"This is a test for our solidarity, our common sense and care for each other. And I hope we pass the test," she said.
However, she ruled out following Austria's lead in banning visitors from Italy, despite warning that up to 70 percent of Germany could become infected with the coronavirus.
Her refusal to put in ban visitors from one of the worst-hit countries in the world follows comments she made just two days ago that she wanted to implement measures to "buy time" in the fight against coronavirus.
Merkel said "all measures" being put in place are to slow the spread of the virus.
She said such measures could help give researchers time to conduct medical research and even create a vaccine, which would be important for next winter when the virus is expected to accelerate.
Despite Merkel's claims of "solidarity" and to "care for each other" as the reason for maintaining an open border policy with Italy, other actions from her government seem to contradict her.
Germany recently moved to block medical supplies to Italy, an action condemned by other EU members.
Italy has 12,500 coronavirus cases and 826 deaths, and the country serves as the epicenter of coronavirus in Europe.
Italy has banned travelers from a number of nations, including China and Iran in addition to implementing a nation-wide quarantine.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump implemented a total travel ban for travelers entering the U.S. from Europe, except for the United Kingdom.
The move comes after the United States became one of the first countries to ban travelers from China.
During an address to the nation, President Trump said that if Europe had blocked travelers from China earlier, it may have avoided or at least slowed the transmission of coronavirus.
Current data shows that Germany, with 1,966 confirmed cases of coronavirus and three deaths, was the world's seventh most affected country by the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this week, the COVID-19 outbreak declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Merkel also said she was open to scrapping Germany's "black zero" rule to allow new government borrowing.
She said it was "an extraordinary situation" and that ending the outbreak came first.
"The virus is in Germany, it is in Europe. That’s the thought we have to get used to," Spahn said.
"It will still spread even if you close all the borders.
"Sooner or later you have to let people in or out and then it starts spreading again."
Experts estimate the virus’s mortality rate in an advanced healthcare system like Germany’s at between 0.1% and 0.7%, Spahn added.
Though Germany has the most intensive care beds per capita in Europe, its healthcare system could quickly be overwhelmed if the virus spread too fast.
Interviewed on Deutschlandfunk radio, Spahn said Germany’s current priority was to slow the virus’s spread to minimize the peak burden on the country’s health system.