Coronavirus: 70% of population likely to be infected, experts tell Angela Merkel

German chancellor warns response is about 'winning time' as virus spread inevitable

Conrad Duncan
Wednesday 11 March 2020 14:08 GMT
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Up to 70 per cent of the population is likely to be infected with coronavirus, Angela Merkel has warned.

The German chancellor told a news conference on Wednesday that the fight against the virus was about “winning time” as she cited experts who have warned a large number of people will be affected by the outbreak.

“When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70 per cent of the population will be infected,” Ms Merkel said.

“The process has to be focused on not overburdening the health system by slowing the virus's spread ... It's about winning time.”

However, Ms Merkel said her government did not have any plans to close its borders over the epidemic in Europe and argued people arriving from badly-hit regions should quarantine themselves at home instead.

“We in Germany, in any case, are of the opinion that border closures are not an appropriate response to the challenge,” she said.

The chancellor also declined to set a budget for the cost of dealing with coronavirus and said Germany would “do what we need to get through this”.

The country has reported 1,296 cases of the virus, including two deaths, as of Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Ms Merkel spoke on Wednesday after the German newspaper Bild sharply criticised her handling of what it called "the corona chaos".

"No appearances, no speech, no leadership in the crisis," the newspaper wrote.

Jens Spahn, the health minister who has led the response to the outbreak, said earlier that closing Germany's borders would not work and rejected calls to follow Austria by denying entry to visitors from Italy, the worst hit country in Europe.

Italy’s government has told its 62 million population to stay at home due to coronavirus as cases have risen to more than 10,000, with more than 600 deaths reported.

Andrej Babis, the Czech Republic’s prime minister, warned on Wednesday that Ms Merkel’s comments about the spread of infections could cause panic, according to CTK news agency.

“I don't want to comment on the situation in Germany, although I believe that such statements rather cause panic,” Mr Babis was quoted as saying.

“In any case, we have adopted strong measures for such worst-case scenarios to be out of the question.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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