Angela Merkel warns of 'British virus' as Germany extends Covid lockdown

Angela Merkel is preparing to extend Germany’s lockdown until April in an effort to contain what she reportedly called the ‘British virus.’

The country had been due to ease restrictions on February 1 but the more virulent strain of the virus – which was first discovered in the UK – necessitates further measures, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn.

He stressed the need to further reduce social contacts to fend off a potentially devastating spread of the disease, with some reports saying the German government believe there could be ten times as many cases by Easter.

Infections are surging again in Germany, Europe’s most populous nation. The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 19,600 new infections on Wednesday. The death toll rose by 1,060 to 42,637.

‘If we don’t manage to stop this British virus, then we will have 10 times the number of cases by Easter. We need eight to 10 more weeks of tough measures,’ the German tabloid Bild quoted Mrs Merkel as saying.

Three participants in the meeting told the Reuters news agency that Merkel had not been explicit about this, but had shown concern about new, more virulent strains of the virus such as the one first identified in Britain.

Germany last week tightened and extended its lockdown to at least the end of January.

A proposal, due to be approved by ministers on Wednesday, will require people arriving from countries with high case loads or where a new, more virulent strain of the virus is circulating, to take a test for the disease.

‘One thing is already evident: It will not be possible to loosen all restrictions on February 1,’ Mr Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday, adding it would take another two or three months for the effects of the vaccination campaign to kick in.

Mobile phone operators will have to send information to arriving passengers as soon as their phones are switched on in Germany, according to the proposal.

Bild reported that Mrs Merkel told the meeting of lawmakers from her conservative party that Germany’s current lockdown could last until the start of April.

‘Merkel said the coming eight to ten weeks would be very hard if the British variant spreads to Germany,’ one of the people in the meeting told Reuters, adding the chancellor had referred to a tenfold surge in infection numbers in Ireland due to the new variant.

It comes as coffins are being piled up in offices and corridors in the Saxon town of Meissen where a crematorium manager says they are cremating 60 bodies a day.

The state of Saxony, where Meissen is located, includes six of the 10 worst-hit counties in Germany.

Responding to Mrs Merkel’s comments about the ‘British virus’, one Tory MP told MailOnline: ‘It is not helpful. The reason she can call it that is because we have such a good way of tracking the variants – far better than other countries.

‘It doesn’t mean it even necessarily started here, it is just we are better at detecting them.

‘It is a clumsy way for the German Chancellor to describe it. To call this variant the ‘British virus’, it is extremely unhelpful.

So far, only 688,782 people have received the vaccine in Germany, less than one per cent of its population.

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