"We are living in atypical times," underlined Chancellor Angela Merkel in a statement following the meeting. That is why this regional meeting with the state premiers of the eastern federal states discussed what has been achieved and what is the status of efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is still a consensus between the German government and the state premiers of all federal states that although infection numbers are dropping, the protective measures in place should be retained, reported Angela Merkel. She pointed to social distancing, with a minimum of 1.5 m, the use of face coverings, and the emergency mechanism that kicks in when infections rise in a specific area.
"Naturally all these mechanisms will remain in place," stressed the Chancellor. It is also clear that we will help one another if the number of infections begin to rise again. Angela Merkel gave the example of health offices receiving support from the Bundeswehr and the overarching "excellent overview of available intensive care beds across Germany". We have worked together to achieve all these things. "They will remain in place and we can draw on them again at any time."
Although the responsibility for protecting the population from infection now is again vested in the federal states, the German government will be monitoring the situation closely, said Angela Merkel. "Because we have a shared interest in containing the pandemic and enabling as much of social and economic life as possible to take place again, especially cultural life and education."
At the next scheduled meeting of the German government with the state premiers of all federal states on 17 June, testing strategies will be discussed and lessons learned with nursery and school re-opening shared. "And we will be discussing how to proceed after the borders are opened within the Schengen Area," announced the Chancellor.
Angela Merkel once again made it clear that, "What we are seeing is still only the start of the pandemic. We have no vaccine. We have no drugs yet." Thanks to the way people have behaved, we have managed to better control the progress of the pandemic. Isolated local outbreaks are a clear indication of how quickly the virus could spread again, however, said the Chancellor, "That is why we must be very cautious and very careful."
At their meeting, the Chancellor and the eastern state premiers also signed a Joint Declaration on the 30th anniversary of German reunification. Angela Merkel said, she fully supports it. "Today we can be happy with what we have achieved."
But the eastern states still have unique features, which is why they discussed special economic promotion programmes. These programmes are needed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to foster forward-looking technologies such as artificial intelligence and renewable energy. Angela Merkel said, "These are all things where the new federal states have a high level of interest and also a great need to build viable economic structures for the future". This is all the more applicable, since some of the structural change needed to protect the climate, such as ending lignite mining, will be taking place in this part of the country.
Angela Merkel praised the concerted consultations, also with a view to the economic recovery programme now launched.
The state premiers of the eastern federal states generally meet twice a year. At the meeting they address issues that are of particular relevance for these states and agree on common positions. Once a year, the Chancellor also attends the meeting. Because of the coronavirus pandemic this meeting, the 47th of its kind, took the form of a video conference.