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World & Nation

German leader Angela Merkel in quarantine after doctor tests positive for coronavirus

APTOPIX `Virus Outbreak Germany Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a news conference in Berlin on Sunday about the coronavirus.
(Michael Kappeler / Associated Press)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine at home in her central Berlin apartment after coming into contact Friday with a doctor who later tested positive for the coronavirus, her office announced Sunday.

Shortly after the 65-year-old German leader announced a further clampdown Sunday outlawing nearly all public and private gatherings, the government released a statement saying she was in quarantine at home because a physician who administered her a pneumococcal vaccine had since tested positive for the infection.

“The chancellor decided immediately to go into quarantine at home,” the government statement said. “She will be tested regularly over the next few days because a test at this point would be inconclusive. The chancellor will continue working in her quarantine at home.”

Merkel did not know about the positive test until right after the news conference ended, an official said.

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Merkel had spent 20 minutes talking to reporters about new rules on social distancing in Germany that the federal government and 16 governors agreed to during a teleconference Sunday aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus after the number of confirmed cases in Germany rose toward 24,000. The new rules outlaw more than two people from gathering — with the exception of immediate family members — and will be in place for at least two weeks. The regulations also provide power to police to investigate and break up private house parties.

The rules fall slightly short of lockdown provisions imposed in neighboring countries France, Belgium, Denmark and Poland, as well as in other European Union countries Italy, Spain and Ireland.

German leaders including Merkel, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain in then-Communist East Germany, have been consciously sensitive about temporarily restricting civil liberties in part because of the nation’s totalitarian past.

“For someone like me, who fought hard to be able to travel freely and move about freely, that would be justifiable if absolutely necessary,” she said last week.

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Merkel told reporters Sunday that her life had changed dramatically in recent days.

“I canceled almost all of my appointments in which people come in here to my offices to see me or to places where I would normally visit,” she said. “My life has changed completely and is mainly made up right now of telephone calls and video conferences.”

Among the other new restrictions imposed Sunday are: closure of hairdressers, massage studios and tattoo parlors; and restaurants limited to takeout and delivery. Most other shops and businesses in Germany were already ordered closed last week.

“The overwhelming majority have understood what’s needed,” she said, referring to a sharp decline in public activity in recent days. “This is how we’re going to save lives.”

Kirschbaum is a special correspondent.


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