German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said that the country is facing its biggest challenge “since the Second World War” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Merkel urged citizens to heed sweeping confinement measures in a television address.
She also appealed to people to play a part in slowing down a virus that has raced across the globe and triggered unprecedented peace-time lockdowns.
“The situation is serious. Take it seriously. Not since German reunification, no, not since the Second World War has our country faced a challenge that depends so much on our collective solidarity,” she said.
Although her 15 years in office have been marked by blows like the financial crisis, the 2015 refugee crisis and Brexit, the veteran leader has never taken to the airwaves to address citizens directly outside of traditional New Year’s greetings.
“I truly believe we can succeed in this task, if all citizens truly understand their own tasks,” Merkel said.
On Tuesday, the German leader Merkel said that the European Union will impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to battle the spread of the coronavirus.
With countries severely curtailing travel to prevent COVID-19 contagion, Germany had earlier issued a warning against travel worldwide.
Last week, US President Donald Trump has announced a suspension of all travel from most European countries for at least 30 days in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The ban excludes US citizens in Europe and travelers from the United Kingdom, and it also excludes cargo.
Some Texas business leaders said they understand and support Trump’s action, even as they said they expect it to take a bite out of the state’s travel sector.
Merkel, who hails from Germany’s former communist East, said she understood how hard it was to give up “hard-fought rights” like freedom of movement and travel.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday the rights to coronavirus vaccine research were not for sale. The comments, made in an interview with media group Funke, come as scientists raced to develop a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus that has killed some 6,000 people, seen millions placed under lockdown and devastated global markets.
“German researchers play a leading role in drug and vaccine development and we cannot allow others to seek exclusive results,” Heiko Maas told Funke.
Merkel’s historic speech echoed that of French President Emmanuel Macron, who in a sombre address on Monday likened the outbreak to war after ordering almost the entire population to stay at home for at least two weeks.
Germany is among the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with latest figures showing 12 deaths and 8,198 confirmed cases on Wednesday, a jump of 1,042 from the previous day.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health warned there could be 10 million cases within two to three months if people do not avoid contact.
(With inputs from agency)