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Merkel calls for global effort on coronavirus vaccine

The German chancellor praised the work of the World Health Organisation.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front right, addresses parliament (Michael Sohn/AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front right, addresses parliament (Michael Sohn/AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, front right, addresses parliament (Michael Sohn/AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for international cooperation on the development of a coronavirus vaccine, saying the pandemic transcends borders and can only be countered jointly.

Speaking to parliament in a session where lawmakers sat apart from one another in line with the country’s social distancing regulations, Mrs Merkel said German scientists were busily researching the virus at home but that “international cooperation against the virus is extremely important”.

“Science is never national, science serves mankind,” she said. “Thus it goes without saying that when medication or a vaccination is found, tested, released and is ready for use, it must be available all around the world and affordable for the whole world.”

US President Donald Trump has announced he is halting funding for the World Health Organisation to review how it has handled the outbreak, but Mrs Merkel lauded the agency’s work in the fight against the coronavirus.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for lockdown measures not to be eased too quickly (Michael Sohn/AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for lockdown measures not to be eased too quickly (Michael Sohn/AP)

AP/PA Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for lockdown measures not to be eased too quickly (Michael Sohn/AP)

“For the German government, I emphasise the WHO is an indispensable partner and we support them in their mandate,” she said.

Germany this week began slowly easing restrictions after being in lockdown for weeks, allowing small shops to start opening while keeping social distancing in place.

All states are also moving ahead with regulations requiring protective masks in public transport, shops or both.

Mrs Merkel chastised some states for moving too quickly to relax measures, saying they are risking setting back what the country has achieved.

Germany has reported more than 150,000 infections but a relatively low death toll of about 5,000, while more than 100,000 people have recovered, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The rate of new infections has been slowing but Mrs Merkel cautioned “we’re still walking on thin ice, one could also say the thinnest ice”.

“We’re not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning. We will be living with this virus for a long time.”

In the times of a pandemic, it can be much lonelier without visitors. Angela Merkel

Mrs Merkel told parliament that in her time as chancellor the decision to “restrict personal freedoms” in the fight against the virus was one of hardest she has made, and urged people to proceed carefully now as steps were being taken to reduce restrictions so as not to give up hard-won gains.

“Let us not squander what we have achieved and risk a setback. It would be a shame if premature hope ultimately punishes us all. Let us all stay on the path in the next phase of the pandemic: smart and careful. It’s a long journey – we can’t run out of stamina and air too soon.”

Still, she said she understood the urge for people to end their isolation, especially among the elderly and disabled population where loneliness can already be a problem.

“In the times of a pandemic, it can be much lonelier without visitors. It is cruel when nobody can be there as strength fades and life comes to an end, aside from the nurses who are doing their very best,” she said.

“Let us never forget these people and the temporary isolation they have to live in. These 80- and 90-year-olds built our country; they are the foundation of the prosperity in which we now live. They are Germany, just like their children and grandchildren, and we also fight the fight against this virus for them.”

PA Media