Berlin March 22nd, 2020
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced additional measures aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and called upon Germany to remain vigilant in adhering to the distancing rules.
Read the full transcript of her address in English here
'This afternoon, I have had lengthy discussions with the Prime Ministers of the States – via the phone. We are all aware of the severity of the situation, as the coronavirus is spreading across our country at an alarming pace. We have discussed the possibilities to take countermeasures today.
And these (possible) countermeasures do not yet include a vaccine, or medication. There are two things we can do at the moment. First, to prepare our healthcare system – above all the hospitals – to handle the large increase in the number of cases. Second, and (this is) the most effective measure we have at our disposal, is to change our own behavior. This means shutting down public life to the greatest possible, acceptable extent, to reduce the number of interactions people who might contract the virus have to the lowest possible level. As you know, the Federal Government and States have already agreed on far-reaching measures to this end on Monday, and back then we agreed to discuss interim conclusions this weekend. Today, on Sunday, we conclude that all across the country, our cities, traffic, and economic and private lives look very different than they did just one week ago.
The vast majority of people have understood that it is up to each and every one of us, that each and every one of us can – and must – do their part to halt the spread of the virus. Before discussing the more detailed guidelines agreed between the Federal and State Governments with you today, I would like to now directly address all those who already comply with the necessary rules of behavior.
I would like to express my gratitude. I know that this is hard and it requires sacrifice – from an economic as well as a human perspective – when businesses have to close, when it’s harder to socialize, and it’s even more painful to not be able to visit our grandparents, meet up with friends. We all have to do without these things for some time to come.
I am very touched by the fact that so many comply with these rules of behavior. This is how we show the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions that we care, for the virus is most dangerous to them. In short: This is how we save lives.
As I have already told you on Wednesday: Our measures have to be adapted with the same flexibility as the virus is dynamic. We have to learn from the situation, so to say. From experts who keep gaining new insights from this epidemic and from observing the reality around us. We are figuring out which measures are being implemented seamlessly and which ones still require work. And why? This is why the Federal Government and States have decided to once more tighten the guidelines on our behavior, freedom of movement, and mobility, which are to be observed by all.
This is how we continue to consistently curtail public activities and social contacts, ensuring that, fundamentally, the same general rules apply across Germany. Many citizens have reached out to us to express the desire to have the same clarity from the Federal State. You should all know: All levels of government in Germany, the Federal Government, States, and Municipalities, are working together to make a great, even vitally important goal reality – to gain time in our battle against the virus.
That is why we have decided on the following complementary guidelines today, which I would like to present to you:
- Citizens are instructed to keep their contact to those outside of their own homes to an absolute minimum.
- In public we should – whenever possible – observe a minimum distance to people, other than those I have just mentioned, of at least 1,5 meters, but better yet 2 meters.
- People are only allowed to stay in public spaces by themselves, with one other person not living in the same household, or with people from their own households.
- Commutes, trips for emergency care, groceries, visiting doctors, participating in meetings, necessary appointments and inspections, assistance to others, individual open-air sporting and exercise activities, as well as other necessary activities will naturally remain possible, to the greatest possible extent.
- In light of the severe threat to our country, groups of people celebrating in public squares, apartments, as well as private facilities are unacceptable. Infringements against the restrictions on contact will be monitored by the authorities for public order and the police and punished in the event of violations.
- Restaurants will be closed. This will not include the delivery and pick-up of take-away food for home consumption.
- Service businesses in the field of personal hygiene – such as hairdressers, cosmetic studios, massage parlors, tattoo studios, and similar businesses – will be closed, as they require close physical proximity to carry out their work. Therefore, they cannot comply with the guidelines we have imposed. Medically necessary treatments will remain possible.
- In all businesses, especially those open to the public, it is vital that the hygiene regulations are complied with and that effective protective measures are implemented for employees and visitors.
- These measures are to be in effect for at least two weeks.
Now, everyone, regardless of where he or she lives, knows exactly what to expect. All of us should organize their movements and lives in line with these clear requirements. None of us – who carry political responsibility within a democracy – ever wanted to impose on citizens’ lives such measures. However, I also want to stress: These are not mere state recommendations, these are rules, and they must be complied with in the interest of all of us.
The law enforcement agencies will check compliance and there will be consequences and punishment whenever they determine infringements. I therefore repeat my urgent appeal to all of you – especially to those few who have had difficulties observing the rules over the last few days: Please do your part! Do what’s right for our country! Show sense and heart!
Many of our fellow citizens are working in the healthcare system or on keeping our daily supply intact. We should be eternally grateful for this. We should above all limit the opportunities for the virus to spread as much as we humanly can for them. It brings us great hope to see now that millions upon millions of people are also taking very practical measures, restricting themselves to help and protect the weaker members of our community, out of community spirit and care.
I am convinced that this sense of community, this notion of “We take care of each other”, will help us all through these hard times together. Thank you very much!'