German chancellor Angela Merkel will go into a two-week home quarantine, her office confirmed on Sunday evening (22 March), after a doctor with whom she had an appointment tested positive for the coronavirus.
The announcement that Merkel would now self-quarantine came just after the chancellor announced the government’s extreme new restrictions on public life, as Europe’s largest economy ramps up efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The raft of restrictions, which will apply across all states for at least the next two weeks, include a ban on gatherings of more than two people, apart from families living in the same household.
People are only allowed to go outside by themselves or in pairs — they may go out in public with one person who is not from their household.
Merkel said at a press conference after today’s meeting (via videoconference) between the federal government and state leaders that these are “rules, not recommendations.”
All contact to each other must be reduced to an absolute minimum and a distance of at least 1.5 metres (6 feet) maintained at all times.
“It is most important that the distance rules are followed,” she said, and urged people to show “responsibility.” The police will ensure that the rules are enforced, she added.
People are allowed to leave the house to go work, visit the doctor, do essential shopping, and engage in solo sports or exercise in the fresh air. All restaurants will now be completely shut to guests, but will be allowed to sell food to-go, and do deliveries.
Merkel said that applying the same rules for the whole country means everyone will know where they stand. "This is how we save lives," she said.
As of Sunday, Germany has a reported 23,974 cases of coronavirus, and 92 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. While millions have obeyed government recommendations to remain at home, there was outrage last week as crowds continued to gather in Berlin to enjoy the warm weather in parks and cafes, and some playgrounds remained open.