German government sets up crisis unit

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Jens Spahn and Horst Seehofer give press conference German government sets up crisis unit

The German government has set up a coronavirus crisis unit. The aim is to “protect the population as well as possible and to stem the epidemic as far as possible,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn. With Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, he gave an update on the situation.

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To take effective steps to combat the novel coronavirus, the Federal Minister of Health and the Federal Minister of the Interior have set up a crisis unit. “This is our response to the new situation in Germany, Europe and the rest of the world,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn. The epidemic can be expected to spread further in Germany as in other countries, he declared.

The joint crisis unit is to ramp up crisis prevention measures in Germany, with the involvement of other federal ministries. At the joint press conference Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer outlined the main responsibilities of the new crisis unit, in order to ensure the population have maximum protection

1.   Breaking infection chains inside Germany, and
2.   Stemming infection chains coming from outside Germany.

"Affording the people maximum protection"

In the most recent cases in North Rhine-Westphalia, the infection was diagnosed at an early stage, reported Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn. The affected individuals have been isolated and are receiving treatment. "The initial infection in North Rhine-Westphalia has not, however, been identified." In this situation it is important to do everything to protect the people as far as possible, while stemming and slowing the outbreak.

Addressing uncertainties

The websites of the Federal Centre for Health Education (BzGA), the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Federal Ministry of Health are kept updated with information on the latest developments. The Patient Service of the German National Association of SHI-Accredited Physicians is providing more information on the coronavirus under telephone hotline 116 117.

"The best way of dealing with uncertainty is to provide well-founded information on the spot," said Jens Spahn. Bus and railway companies are being asked to provide passengers with comprehensive information. Medical practices, hospitals and nursing and care facilities will also be kept supplied with updated information materials.

"Rather too much protection than too little"

To ensure health protection, and prevent the further spread of the virus from other countries, a number of different steps have been taken. The German government will introduce a disembarkation card to be filled in by everyone arriving by ship or by air. Passengers will be required to provide information about their trip and where they have been so that possible infection chains can be identified and affected individuals can be contacted. Bus and railway companies are also to make a declaration of undertaking to use the disembarkation cards on all cross-border bus and rail routes. Transport operators are to keep passengers informed of the latest developments, and explain what they should do if they develop symptoms.

The new crisis unit will determine to what extent new measures should apply to cross-border goods traffic. The overriding interest is to protect people’s health and this takes precedence over commercial interests. Any measures introduced should, however, be effective, and offer clear benefits, said the Federal Minister of the Interior.