World Germany's Merkel warns of third wave if lockdown is lifted too quickly
Germany defends border controls as business demands lockdown exit plan
Germany defends border controls as business demands lockdown exit planThe new restrictions along the normally open borders were prompted by alarm over outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol region of strains of the coronavirus that spread faster and cause more illness.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that her country could be caught in aif it lifts its lockdown too quickly.
Her comments come as daycare centers and elementary schools were reopened in 10 of the Germany's 16 states this week, and as the nation mulls ways tothat have shuttered the country's non-essential businesses for more than 10 weeks.
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China obstructed Taiwan’s purchase of vaccines from BioNTech, Taiwan’s health minister said, according to a Central News Agency report. Japan began its vaccination program, starting with a group of frontline health-care workers. New Zealand is also ending a three-day lockdown in Auckland after authorities expressed confidence that the latest community outbreak is contained. Australia’s Melbourne will also lift its five-day lockdown as planned, though some restrictions on visitors to the home will remain.South Korea reported 621 new cases, the most in six weeks.
"Because of (variants), we are entering a new phase of the pandemic, from which a third wave may emerge,'' Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in anpublished on Wednesday.
"So we must proceed wisely and carefully so that a third wave does not necessitate a new complete shutdown throughout Germany."
Much of Europe is recording cases of newer Covid-19 variants, particularly ones that first emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Both are believed to spread more rapidly than previous variants.
In Germany's staggered approach to reopening, hairdressers are due to resume business on March 1, while most other businesses must stay shut until March 7.
There are currently around 61.7 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country's public health authority. Merkel has said the goal is to reduce that incident rate to 35 per 100,000 in order to reopen the economy in a meaningful way.
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Merkel defended the states' decisions to reopen schools, saying that districts achieving the 35 in 100,000 rate could do so without having an impact on other areas.
She added that widescale testing would be rolled out in line with the country's staggered reopening.
"An intelligent opening strategy is inextricably linked with comprehensive quick tests, as it were as free tests," Merkel added. "I cannot say exactly how long it will take to install such a system. But it will be in March."
Germany has been able to slow the Covid-19 infection rate with its lockdown, which included the closure of its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic. Czech health authorities are now confirming record daily infection cases, with its death toll climbing to one of the world's worst per capita, pushing its hospitals to the brink of collapse.
Germany, like many European Union nations, is struggling to roll out a widespread vaccination program that would aid a more rapid reopening of its economy. The European Union is distributing its vaccines equally among its 27 member states, proportionate to their populations, but it has received tens of millions fewer doses than it expected.
Setback for the Minister of Health: Merkel wants to postpone the start of the rapid test offensive
The Chancellor wants to discuss the expansion of the rapid tests with the Prime Minister on March 3. Actually, this should already be available from March 1st. © Photo: Annegret Hilse / Reuters / Pool / dpa Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). In addition to the vaccinations, they are the great hope in the fight against the coronavirus: rapid antigen tests. With their help, a renewed increase in the number of corona cases and a third wave should be prevented.
The European Parliament is expected to grill pharmaceutical companies in a public hearing Thursday, demanding answers around failures to deliver on agreed numbers of vaccine doses.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has warned that restrictions in his country are starting to lose their impact, highlighting the urgent need of a boost to the bloc's vaccine stocks.
"The objective situation in Austria was simply that after six weeks the lockdown had lost its effect. People have adhered to it less and less, there have been more and more shifts to the private sector, and a lockdown where no one participates, of course, makes little sense," he told German newspaper Bild.
He will push the European Union on Thursday to instate a "green passport" system to allow people who have been vaccinated to travel within the bloc.
As Germany and several other European nations consider how to lift their restrictions, France -- which resisted a new national lockdown as new variants emerged -- is imposing new ones. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce new measures on Thursday.
The French Riviera has been placed under weekend lockdowns, for the next two weeks, while the region around the northern port town of Dunkirk will begin weekend lockdowns on Saturday.
Germany's spy agency has placed the far-right AfD party under surveillance for extremism .
The BfV can now monitor the the phones, emails, and finances of Germany's main opposition party and its leaders.The decision by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) was made on February 25 and first reported by Der Spiegel on Wednesday. The New York Times has also reported the news.