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Health News

Merkel urges Germans to reduce contacts and travel as infections rise

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to curb social contacts and keep travel to a minimum on Saturday after federal and state governments struggled to agree on how to contain a second wave of coronavirus infections.

FILE PHOTO: Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel removes her mask for the EU summit final news conference at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium October 16, 2020. Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

“We have to do everything to prevent the virus from spreading out of control. Every day counts,” Merkel said in a weekly video podcast.

While Germany’s infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have been accelerating and hit a daily record of 7,830 on Saturday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infections diseases. The death toll rose by 33 to 9,767.

“We have to go further,” Merkel said. “I appeal to you: meet with fewer people, either at home or outside.

“Please forsake any journey that is not absolutely essential, every party that is not absolutely essential. Stay at home, where at all possible.”

Merkel’s appeal came as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier went into quarantine after a bodyguard tested positive for coronavirus, his office said. Steinmeier, whose role is largely ceremonial, has also been tested and is awaiting the result.

German leaders have been unable to agree on tougher measures to contain a second wave. Courts in several regions have, meanwhile, overturned bans on hotel stays for visitors from infection hotspots.

Politicians and health experts have appealed to the public to take voluntary measures over and above those already prescribed - including wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing.

Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg tested positive for coronavirus after attending a meeting with his European Union counterparts on Monday, his spokeswoman said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who also attended the meeting in Luxembourg, tested negative on Friday as did members of his team, his spokesman said.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Frances Kerry and Mike Harrison

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