The German chancellor’s first test for coronavirus has come back negative, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday afternoon.
However, Merkel must remain under quarantine in her apartment in the Mitte district of Berlin, where she will be undergo further tests later in the week, Seibert said.
The German leader’s office issued an announcement on Sunday saying that Merkel would go into self-quarantine at home, as she had seen a doctor on Friday, who himself later tested positive for Covid-19.
Before announcing her quarantine, Merkel had led a Sunday video-conference between the federal government and the heads of Germany’s 16 states, where they agreed to impose nation-wide restrictions on people and public life to try and slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
The “rules, not recommendations” as Merkel described them, include a ban on being outside in a group of more than two people, and a shutdown of all restaurants apart from for take-away orders.
As of Monday afternoon (23 March) Germany has 27,546 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 115 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Merkel, who lives in a comparatively modest apartment in Berlin with her husband Joachim Sauer, was spotted in her local Berlin supermarket last week buying two rolls of toilet paper, three bottles of wine, and sundries.
She has repeatedly warned against stockpiling, or “hamster buying” as it is called in Germany. The Bild tabloid pointed out that she paid with card, avoiding unnecessary contact.
— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) March 21, 2020
Her spokesman today refused to comment on whether Merkel’s husband was now forced to quarantine with her in the flat.
Merkel is not the first world leader to go into self-quarantine. Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is also isolated at home after his wife tested positive for the virus. Many have tested positive for Covid-19, including the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, Monaco’s Prince Albert, and Begoña Gómez, the wife of Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez.
The German government said today it has now flown home 120,000 of some 200,000 German tourists, who were marooned abroad; it had earmarked €50m for the repatriation effort.
Earlier today, the government green-lit a €750bn package of fiscal stimulus and measures to protect companies, jobs, and the economy as it fights the effects of coronavirus, abandoning its constitutional ban on taking on fresh debt. The law was allowed to be relaxed in extraordinary cases.