German Minister Rejects Swift Easing as Death Toll Tops 30,000

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has ruled out a rapid lifting of the nation’s coronavirus restrictions, as the nation’s death toll from the disease ticked above 30,000.

“We must not risk everything we have achieved with quick easing, otherwise it will start all over again,” Seehofer said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“If the lockdown does not have a sufficient effect, the measures must be tightened,” he said, adding that a “third wave” must be avoided “at all costs.”

German cases and deaths have been on the rise since October, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to impose a harder shutdown — with schools and non-essential stores shuttered — until at least Jan. 10. Germany joined European Union partners in starting vaccinations on Sunday, but officials have said it will take months for the program to have a tangible impact on the spread of the disease.

The number of coronavirus fatalities in Germany rose above 30,000 on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, while total cases have now exceeded 1.65 million.

Seehofer, a member of the Bavarian sister-party to Merkel’s CDU, accused some senior colleagues of failing to recognize the seriousness of the pandemic. Merkel pushed for tighter restrictions to be introduced earlier, but faced resistance among the heads of Germany’s 16 states.

The virus curbs from October onward were “inadequate” and some top officials, including regional leaders, “simply underestimated the gravity of the situation,” Seehofer told Bild.

“You can only get the spread of a highly infectious and potentially deadly virus under control with rigorous countermeasures,” he said, adding that Germany still lacks “satisfactory solutions” for schools and public transport.

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