Merkel pleads with Germans for patience on lockdown measures

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(March 27): Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was premature to consider easing Germany’s lockdown measures as coronavirus infections can take as long as 14 days to incubate.

“We’re not even close to where we can see if the measures are working,” Merkel said via audio conference from Berlin in her first public comments since entering precautionary quarantine on Sunday.

The German leader isolated herself at home after she learned that she had come in contact with a doctor who later tested positive. Two initial tests turned up a negative result. Merkel spoke after back-to-back video conferences with leaders of the Group of 20 nations and European Union member states.

The G-20 said they were injecting more than $5 trillion to help buoy the global economy -- and that leaders will do “whatever it takes” to stave off economic catastrophe.

European leaders, meanwhile, struggled to agree on a concrete strategy to contain the fallout from the pandemic, leaving key details to be hammered out in the weeks ahead. One of the sticking points was over financing recovery efforts, with some countries pushing for so-called coronabonds to jointly raise funds.

Merkel said the European Stability Mechanism “is the preferred instrument” for providing aid in the euro area.

Merkel’s government this week secured emergency spending powers to unleash a historic rescue package worth more than 750 billion euros ($824 billion). The measures -- including higher social spending, loans for businesses and funds to potentially buy stakes in stricken companies -- will be financed by 156 billion euros in new debt, blowing open the country’s previous commitment to balanced budgets.

Before entering quarantine, Merkel tightened Germany’s lockdown measures including banning gatherings of more than two people. Last week, she called the disease the country’s biggest challenge since World War II.

Despite being in quarantine, Merkel said she was getting on with her duties, but with some limitations.

“Of course you don’t have the opportunity to walk around and talk to someone at the table,” she said.

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