A sincere and moving plea from Angela Merkel in Germany's Bundestag today, which prompted long applause from parliamentarians. With just days until Christmas, the chancellor was telling the country that Covid restrictions have to be strengthened: "If we have too many contacts now, in the run-up to Christmas, and it ends up being the last Christmas we spend with our grandparents, we will have done something wrong,” she affirmed. Merkel, beseeching her audience, said the current coronavirus trend in Germany cannot be allowed to continue.
The executive leader spoke acknowledging the powers of the regional lander in the decentralised German state, but she warned: "The figures are what they are, and we have to act, the restrictions are the responsibility of the federal states, but I and the central government have a special responsibility." And she gave examples of dangers, such as waffle stalls and Glühwein mulled wine stands - which she said could not be allowed: "It's very hard and I'm very sorry, from the bottom of my heart, but if the price we pay is 590 deaths in a day, it's totally unacceptable from my point of view". The chamber signaled its agreement with strong applause.
The chancellor stated her opposition to the opening of hotels to allow families to gather during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and she declared her agreement with the recommendations to close shops after Christmas until 10th January. One of the most important dangers that Merkel pointed out is the contact that families could have with their grandparents.
She also called for an end to compulsory school attendance from December 14th, for an extension of the Christmas school holidays, for the complete closure of all businesses except those that are essential from December 24th, and for work from home for virtually everyone.
Vídeo subtitled in English:
Uno de los vídeos del día. Merkel, al borde de las lágrimas, pide en el Bundestag a los alemanes que se queden en casa en Navidad. El precio de no hacerlo son 590 muertes al día. pic.twitter.com/XoVJe669P0— Fernando H. Valls (@FernandoHValls) December 9, 2020
Angela Merkel also acknowledged that vaccines that might be given during the first quarter of 2021 will not be enough to mean a "significant change" in terms of effects on the overall effects of the virus in society. Her pleas were preceded by a defence of next year's German federal budget, which allow for a deficit of 180 billion euros to combat the crisis unleashed by the coronavirus.
Death toll, a new record
German public health body the Robert Koch Institute announced a new record daily death toll in Germany on Wednesday of 590 people, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 19,932, with more than 1.2 million Germans having been infected. The figure of 590 deaths today is precisely what Merkel quoted in her speech.
Some of the MPs present in the Bundestag responded by shaking their heads. The restrictions are opposed by German far-right party AfD, which is the largest opposition party and the fiercest critic of the government’s pandemic policies. Afd co-director, Alice Weidel, called for an end to "counterproductive closures" and criticized what she called Merkel's "senseless and grotesque" handling of the pandemic: "She is locking down the people and destroying entire industries," she affirmed.
Frau #Merkel, wieviel Unheil wollen Sie noch anrichten?— Alice Weidel (@Alice_Weidel) December 9, 2020
Es schmerzt mich, was in diesem Land alles schiefläuft, und wir sind angetreten, um diese Schieflage zu korrigieren! #AfD #Generaldebatte #Weidel https://t.co/6ngIYvnluA