Good afternoon to you all,
I’m happy to be able to address you from the Federal Chancellery again today. My home quarantine is over, and I am well. I now have an inkling of what it’s like to spend two weeks alone at home, two weeks when the phone and internet are your only connection to the outside world. It’s not easy. And it’s especially hard now for the many older or ill people who have to stay at home on their own because the virus is very dangerous for them and who, unlike me, are unable to go outside again after just under two weeks. I would like to extend my warm regards and very best wishes to you, the people in this situation.
It is important to me to reiterate what is driving me and the Federal Government in the fight against the coronavirus and what is guiding our decisions.
I want to say this again because Easter, a very special time, is ahead of us next week. For millions of Christians, Easter means going to church. It means spending Easter Sunday with the whole family, perhaps going for a walk. It means an Easter fire. For a lot of people, it means a short trip to the coast or southern Europe, where it’s already warmer. That’s usually what it means, but not this year.
This is what I must tell you today. All of us will experience an Easter unlike any other before. Naturally, Christians in Germany will mark Good Friday and celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. But they won’t do so in church, side by side with their fellow parishioners. I’m glad and grateful that the churches have done such a wonderful job in the past weeks of reaching so many people through church services on television, the radio and online. I’m sure that far more people will follow these services at Easter.
In this context, I am also thinking of Jews and Muslims in Germany, as well as people of all other faiths, who are currently unable to congregate in their places of worship. That is one of these restrictions that really goes to the heart of a society, one that we can only accept in an emergency and for as long as absolutely necessary.
Going for a walk at Easter will also only be possible in line with the regulations that have been in place for a good two weeks now, that is, with the people you live with, or at most with one other person from outside your home, and at all times keeping the necessary distance of at least 1.5 or better still two metres from other people. And we must not forget to wash our hands often and thoroughly.
Should you decide to wear a basic mask, please do not forget that it can never be a substitute for the necessary distance from other people. As long as there is no vaccine or medicine against the virus, keeping our distance is the most effective way to protect ourselves.
And another thing, which I would also ask you to take seriously – there can be no short trips in Germany this Easter, no trips to the coast or mountains, no visits to relatives.
I know that these are difficult truths. We are used to being able to move about, do things and travel when and where we want. This personal liberty is a fundamental part of our free lives. And now there are suddenly regulations, restrictions and bans everywhere. But they are literally necessary to life. And because that is the case, I am reminding you and us all in detail about this again today, especially before the Easter break.
Some of you may say: “We’ve been sticking to all these regulations for over two weeks now. How much longer will this last?” I understand this question. However, it would be absolutely irresponsible of me to simply give you a concrete date today when the measures can be stopped or at least relaxed, but then to be unable to keep this promise because the number of infections makes it impossible.
If I were to dash the hopes arising from a promise of this kind, things would go from bad to worse in the medical sector, the economy and society.
But what I certainly can promise you, and what I want to promise you, is that you can trust that the Federal Government and I personally are thinking hard day and night about how we can achieve both things, that is, how we can protect public health and come up with a process that will enable public life to resume step by step.
We would not be living up to our responsibilities if we were not thinking about this. But equally, we would not be living up to our responsibilities if we were now to spark false hopes by agreeing exit dates that subsequently fail to reflect reality in any way.
Keeping all of this as a whole in mind is what guides me. This is a herculean task and all of you can rightfully expect your Federal Government and me personally to face up to this herculean task. That is exactly what we are doing. I promise you that.
In order to continue achieving this, let me say very frankly that I still need your help. I need the help you have been providing in such wonderful ways for weeks now. It is simply fantastic what the vast majority of people in our country are doing to help. Our country is showing itself from its best side. I’m eternally grateful for this and I can’t say that often enough.
How important this is becomes clear when we look at the situation and at why it is necessary – absolutely necessary – that we all continue to adhere to the regulations, restrictions and bans.
The coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in Germany. I mourn the deaths of the people who lost their lives as a result of this disease. Their families and friends are in my thoughts.
Every day, thousands of new cases of infection are confirmed, and that automatically means that there are many new patients every day, some of whom need intensive medical care and hospital treatment.
We are still able to provide everyone, including critically ill people, with the necessary care. Maintaining this ability is our guiding goal because we are a humane society. This is not about numbers, but rather about each and every individual, whose inalienable dignity must be respected.
It’s true that the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute, although very high, give grounds for a certain amount of extremely cautious optimism, as the number of new confirmed cases is now increasing at a slightly slower rate than was the case a few days ago.
But it is definitely far too early to discern a stable trend in these figures and absolutely far too soon to relax any of the strict regulations we have imposed on ourselves.
The experts tell us that it will still take a while before we know how the measures we have adopted, and in particular the great restrictions you all face, are flattening the curve of infections. However, we need to know that in order to be certain that our healthcare system can cope with the huge burden caused by the corona epidemic.
In my talks with the heads of the federal state governments on Wednesday, we thus all agreed that all guidelines on reduced public life and all guidelines on restricting individual contacts will remain unchanged initially until the end of 19 April, when the Easter holidays finish in most federal states.
What happens after that will have to depend entirely on what point of the spread of the virus we have reached in Germany and the impact this is having on our hospitals.
I know this is a worrying time. You are worried about your families, your jobs, and how our whole country will change as a result of the watershed caused by the corona epidemic. And no matter how hard they work, politicians cannot simply erase these concerns.
However, I assure you that we will do everything in the state’s power to ensure that as few of your worries as possible come to pass. The largest economic and social aid programmes Germany has ever seen were launched a few days ago. Countless applications for subsidies, loans, reduced hours compensation benefit and many other types of support have already been received and will be processed as quickly and with as little bureaucracy as possible. You should all know that the Federal Government is standing by you. We are doing everything we can to ensure that our social market economy, which is based on the principle of solidarity, stands this test.
All of us are learning in this pandemic. We are learning almost every day. Scientists have said so, and the same goes for us politicians. I would like to thank you for your patience and perseverance.
All those who are staying at home, reducing personal contacts as far as possible and sticking to the rules are actively doing the right thing and actively doing good. And you are also doing good if you come up with ideas under these difficult conditions about how to help other people. Yes, we have to keep our distance from others. But that doesn’t stop us from showing other people our closeness, affection and solidarity by sending them a letter, giving them a call, talking to them on Skype, helping them with their shopping or livestreaming concerts from our home. All this is helping each and every one of us to get through this period together in a good way.
There will be a time after this. Or to go back to the topic of Easter, there will be Easter celebrations in the future when we will be able to wish each other a happy Easter without any restrictions. When this new time will come and how good life will be again lies in the hands of us all.
All of us together can help our country to find its way out of this crisis. And this “us” is what counts now.