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Trump's infection shows officials must take virus seriously - Germany's Altmaier

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier attends a news conference after informal talks of the EU Trade Ministers in Berlin, Germany, September 21, 2020. Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection showed that politicians must take the COVID-19 pandemic more seriously and stop minimizing its health risks.

Trump spent much of the year downplaying the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected 7.4 million Americans, killed more than 209,000, and caused an economic downturn that has thrown millions out of work.

Altmaier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told ARD public broadcaster that Trump’s infection confirmed what German officials said from the beginning of the pandemic, namely that it was important to protect yourself and others by wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing.

“And what makes me angry is the fact that there are always politicians, in Donald Trump’s party, but also in other countries and also here with us, who are playing it down, who are pretending that you can stand up to the virus and nothing would happen,” Altmaier said.

The exact opposite was the case, as could be seen with the more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths within only six months in the United States alone, he said.

“These are all people, many of whom could still live if the pandemic had been fought in a proper way,” Altmaier added.

Germany kept COVID-19 infections and deaths low compared with other European countries during the first wave in the spring.

But infection numbers are rising again and authorities are mulling further restrictions that could limit public life and slow down the economic recovery after Germany suffered its worst recession on record in the first half of the year.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Peter Cooney