Berlin, April 20th 2020

Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised the discussions on further relaxation of restrictions in the fight against the coronavirus with extraordinary severity.

According to information from the ARD capital city studio, Merkel made it clear in a press conference of the CDU presidency, how dissatisfied she was with the fact that the message of cautious loosening had led to "opening discussion orgies" in some federal states.

This, she said, greatly increased the risk of a relapse. Merkel said that she was very concerned that the good trend in corona infections would be reversed, because too few people would adhere to the contact restrictions. She said that the discussion about loosening up was not helpful.

Here's the full English transcript of the speech by Angela Merkel translated using the combination of custom-trained machine translation models and expert linguists:

Before I tell you about a decision made by the Corona Cabinet, which is very important to me, I’d like to make a few comments about the current situation. We have achieved a great deal in the last four weeks since the beginning of the tough measures and contact restrictions. Most importantly, we have succeeded in bringing the number of infections under control so that they are no longer increasing exponentially, and that the reproduction factor is now below one.

The fact that we have had more recoveries than new infections for several days now is thanks to the citizens who have adhered to the restrictions with incredible discipline and patience. Today I would like to once again say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

There is a growing number of people who have recovered and fewer infections and that is the result of the contact restrictions. However, we should not forget for a moment that despite this, we are still at the beginning of the epidemic and a far from being out of the woods. I believe we have to remind ourselves of this again and again, especially at the beginning of this week when the first easing of restrictions come into force.

I understand that this is difficult, but if we were to lift the restrictions now, we would have no way of knowing what the consequences would be. For this reason, we must proceed slowly and carefully, step by step, as it would be a pity to walk straight into a relapse and jeopardise our first successes.

For this reason, we must not become frivolous or careless for even one second. We cannot afford to have a false sense of security. It is very important that we do not become irresponsible and complacent. We must remain vigilant, and when I say we, I mean the citizens of this country.

To be very clear, I am aware that many people are suffering. I understand the desperation of parents and children, and the desperation of single parents. I see the hardships of so many in the catering and hospitality industry, and the many people who are struggling to keep their shops and businesses alive. I see many artists and performers who don’t know how to they can continue. I see the expectations of the churches and religious communities who want to provide more than just online services for their congregations.  And I see the longing of the faithful to finally be together again with others in the services. Of course, I also see the urgent need to be able to exercise the freedom of assembly and demonstration again, and I also see the plight of lonely people who are feeling lonelier than ever. This epidemic demands much from all of us in this country, every single person but also the community.

I am convinced, however, that we can best deal with all the hardships, hopes, expectations, and desires, if we are strong and continue to abide by the strict measures. We must remember what was decided last Wednesday: Until at least May 3, maintain the 1.5 meter distance rule outside, stay at home only with members of your household or with one other person, no vacation travel, and no travel far away from your home.

My concerns and my reminders that we are still at the beginning of this epidemic, and that we must remain focused, is something I repeat in all my conversations. I have made this clear in all my discussions with the Federal Minister President so that the leeway we have given ourselves be implemented essentially by the Federal states and that the general decree is implemented through the competence of the Infection Protection Act. Also, so that this leeway is adhered to as closely as possible and not as broadly as possible as I believe if this does not happen, we run the risk of overlooking the restrictions. The situation that we have today is deceiving. By reopening of shops today, something we agreed upon together, and what this means to the infection rate, will only become apparent in 14 days and not before. This is what make the situation so difficult. I believe that we all agree, the federal and state government and our citizens, that we won’t have to impose another general shutdown. However, that would of course be the consequence of another exponential growth in the infection numbers. It would be unavoidable and would lead to an emergency situation in our hospitals, the level of which we have not seen up to now. This is exactly what we hope to avoid, getting into the same kind of dramatic situation we’ve seen in other countries. We don’t want to put the elderly or sick at risk, yet we don’t want to isolate them or shut them away for months either. This does not correspond to our view of humanity in any way.

I firmly believe that to prevent a relapse, we must return to tougher measures, not only in the interest of fighting the epidemic, but in the interest of developing our industry and social life. Therefore, I will not let up on reminding our citizens, over and over again, to continue to be consistent and disciplined. The more sustainable the reproduction rate of under one is, the more and more we can return to our open social and economic life again, something that is in the best interest of us all.

To cope with this situation, our international experience has shown us that primarily need a precise tracing of infection chains. This means that every newly infected person must be asked about who he or she has been in contact with and these people must all go into quarantine together. This can only succeed if we strengthen public health services – agreements have already been made between the federal government and the states on March 25.  These state that a minimum of one contact tracking team of 5 people will be deployed per 20,000 inhabitants. The Federal Minister of Health has financed 105 mobile teams to support the public health service. These can be trained in the management of contact persons and provide support on site. This was also discussed today with the states. An obligation to report will be put in place as of April 22 by the states that are not yet able to fulfil this task. This will be reported to the state regulatory authorities so that we can take remedial action. The army, for example, is helping with such contact tracing in Brandenburg. This is not health-specific knowledge but involves simply working through a telephone chain that is put in place. At the RKI, we will set up a contact point service center for the municipal public health service with 40 employees who will then be the contact person for ten health authorities.

This may sound very technical, but we know from South Korea and the Asian countries, who have dealt with such epidemics, that it is crucial to be able to precisely trace each and every infection chain. This better documentation would allow us to really be able to contain the virus. As I said, I hope that we can, as quickly and successfully as possible, continue to reduce the reproduction factor.

Thank you very much, that’s all for today.