EU faces "biggest test" since its founding amid coronavirus pandemic: Merkel

Tuesday, 2020-04-07 10:45:55
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People wearing face masks queue to enter a shop in Jena, Germany, April 6, 2020. The eastern German city of Jena became the first in the country to make wearing a protective face mask mandatory in public areas, such as shops, on public transportation and in buildings with public access during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Xinhua)
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The European Union (EU) is facing the "biggest test since its foundation" due to the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday (April 6).

The pandemic has produced a "symmetrical shock" and all countries are "equally affected," Merkel said at a press conference at the Chancellery. There is a common interest in making certain that Europe "emerges strongly from this test," she said.

"Germany, too, will only be successful in the long term if Europe is doing well," noted Merkel. It was her first public appearance following her home quarantine after being in contact with a doctor who had tested positive for coronavirus.

Merkel stressed that Germany and Europe would have to develop their own production of protective equipment. "We must work hard" so that medical staff can be provided with protective equipment. Some German companies are already starting to produce protective masks.

In view of the social restrictions on daily life that are currently in effect in Germany, Merkel recalled it is important to ensure that the German health system is not overburdened.

She said that it was too early to give the all-clear. Last week, the German government had extended the restrictive anti-coronavirus measures until at least April 19.

* The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany increased by 3,677 within one day to 95,391, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Monday.

The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus in Germany increased by 92 to 1,434, according to RKI, the federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last Friday that the current lockdown measures will extend to April 19 and stressed now "is much too early" to relax the government's strict measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Merkel also called upon people to avoid gatherings and outings during the upcoming Easter holiday.

* Between Saturday and Sunday, the coronavirus death toll in Italy was 525, the lowest one-day total since March 19, when COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, claimed 427 lives.

The country registered its one-day high of 969 fatalities on March 27. The death toll has decreased in five of nine days since then.

Still, the pandemic has now resulted in 15,887 deaths, more than in any other country. The number of active cases in the country climbed to 91,246 on Sunday, up from 88,274 a day earlier. All told, Italy has registered 128,948 cases since the start of the outbreak, up from 124,632 registered Saturday.

* Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on Monday called for national unity to overcome the ongoing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which he described as the biggest challenge in the past 100 years.

The president declared a state of emergency, first of its kind in Portuguese history, on March 18 and extended last Thursday until April 17. However, he has indicated that the country may need four phases of state of emergency before bringing the pandemic under control and restoring the normalcy.

The Directorate-General for Health (DGS) announced on Monday that the COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has killed 311 people and infected 11,730 in Portugal so far.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa has said that April will the most critical period for the pandemic, while health authorities expected that the peak of the COVID-19 might occur at the end of May.

However, the growth rate of the new confirmed cases in the past week is on the decline, indicating that the containment measures are effective, experts and health professionals said.

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken to intensive care on Monday night after his coronavirus symptoms worsened, Downing Street said.

Johnson has asked British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him, a Downing Street spokesman said.

The prime minister, 55, was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London with "persistent symptoms" on Sunday night, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus.

The spokesman said the prime minister was moved on the advice of his medical team and is receiving "excellent care."

The death toll of those hospitalized in Britain who tested positive for the coronavirus reached 5,373 as of Sunday afternoon, a daily increase of 439, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

As of Monday morning, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Britain hit 51,608, up 3,802 in the past 24 hours, said the department.

* The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Belgium has risen from 19,691 to 20,814 by Monday morning with 1,632 deaths, according to the latest figures from Belgian health authorities.

In addition, in the last 24 hours, 420 patients of COVID-19 have been hospitalized while 235 people have left the hospital.