Merkel to give first ever TV address as German infections soar
Chancellor Angela Merkel will for the first time deliver a televised address Wednesday to German citizens on the escalating coronavirus crisis, a government spokesman said.
The German leader is expected to urge the public to heed government recommendations to stay at home, after Europe's biggest economy announced sweeping new measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Aside from her annual New Year's Eve address, it will be the first time in her 15-year tenure as chancellor that Merkel has addressed citizens directly via a televised statement.
The chancellor will not announce "new measures" in the evening address, which will be broadcast by Germany's two major broadcasters ARD and ZDF, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
"It will be about what now has to be done in Germany in order to slow the spread of the virus and how each individual should play their part in that," he said.
On Monday, the government and federal states announced drastic new restrictions to public life, including the closure of all non-essential shops and a ban on religious gatherings.
Supermarkets, banks and pharmacies are among the shops allowed to stay open, while bars, clubs, swimming pools and cinemas have been told to close.
Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also urged citizens to "stay home" and to cancel holidays "at home and abroad".
Germany is among the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with latest figures showing 12 deaths and 8,198 confirmed cases at midnight on Wednesday, a jump of 1,042 from the previous day.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health, which publishes the official figures, urged citizens to avoid social contact and warned of an exponential rise in infections early Wednesday.
"If we don't manage to sustainably and effectively reduce contact between people over a matter of weeks, then it is possible we will have up to 10 million cases within two to three months," said RKI president Lothar Wieler at a press conference.
He added that the RKI would use anonymised mobile phone data provided by Deutsche Telekom to check whether the public were keeping to the new measures.
"The data will show us if the mobility of the population as a whole has gone down. That's important...because we need to know why infection rates have increased or decreased."
Wieler also called on clinics and hospitals to expand their intensive and respiratory care facilities "as much as possible", saying capacities should "at least double".
"Train students, activate doctors who may have gone into retirement," he said.