BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on European leaders to work together to avoid renewed lockdowns as a resurgence of the coronavirus threatens already battered economies.
“Politically, we want to avoid closing borders again at any cost, but that assumes that we act in coordination,” Dr Merkel said on Thursday (Aug 20) during a visit to meet Mr Emmanuel Macron at his presidential residence on the Mediterranean coast.
The meeting in person came as European authorities weigh reimposing restrictions to staunch a fresh wave of infections.
The bloc, which relies on the free flow of goods and people, is facing the delicate task of confronting the public-health crisis without delivering another blow to shutdown-battered economies.
The dilemma became apparent as tourist-reliant countries tried to reopen for the summer season only to be forced to shut down late-night partying as social gatherings and travellers were blamed for a spike in cases.
Germany recorded 1,586 new infections in the 24 hours through Friday morning, above 1,000 for a fourth straight day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More than a third of Germans are worried or very worried that they or a family member will catch the disease, according to a poll for ARD television published on Friday.
Dr Merkel and Mr Macron, who together helm the mightiest economies in the euro region, intervened in tandem to say the goal is to avoid repeating heavy-handed measures adopted during the initial peak of the pandemic in March and April.
The French leader laid the groundwork in an interview with Paris Match, in which he made it clear that “we cannot shut down the country, because the collateral damage of confinement is considerable”.
“We have to have the same strategy and rules – that is a prevention strategy,” Macron said.
“We want to avoid the errors that were made at the start of the crisis.”
His intervention came as France reported 4,771 new cases on Thursday, a level not reached since mid-April.
Italy had 845 new cases, the most since May 17.
In Italy, nightclubs are closed and face-mask requirements have been broadened, while the country rushes to set up fast testing at airports to check people returning from vacations abroad.
Spain recorded 3,349 new infections in the latest 24-hour period, according to Health Ministry data on Thursday, compared with 3,715 on Wednesday.
With Spain’s tourism-dependent economy shrinking the most among its major European peers, the summer time surge has become a bane to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s fragile government.
“On a national scale, we can’t say the pandemic is out of control. But in some places it is,” Dr Fernando Simon, the government’s lead epidemiologist, said on Thursday.