22 March 2020
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
This afternoon, I had a detailed telephone consultation with the Heads of Government of the Federal States. We are all aware of the seriousness of the situation. The coronavirus continues to spread in our country at an alarming rate.
Today we discussed how our measures are working. We do not yet have an antidote or medicines. We only have, firstly, the efforts we are making to prepare our health system, especially the hospitals, for the expected further large increase in the number of cases. And, secondly, our behavior. This is the most effective tool we have at present. It means reducing public life as much as possible thereby reducing the number of encounters between people where the virus could be transmitted.
As you know, the Federal Government and the Federal States had already agreed on Monday on drastic measures to this end. We had agreed that we would take stock of the situation this weekend.
Today, on Sunday, we are finding everywhere in Germany that our cities, our transport, our economic and private lives look completely different from a week ago. The overwhelming majority of people have understood that it is now up to each and every one of them, and that everyone can and must do his or her part to stop the virus.
Before I explain to you in detail the extended guidelines that the Federal Government and the Federal States have agreed on today, it is important to me to address directly all those who are now complying with the necessary rules of conduct. I thank you for this. I know that it means renunciation and sacrifice, both economically and personally, when businesses have to close, when it is no longer easy to go among people and, what is even more painful, when it is no longer allowed to visit grandparents or meet friends. We all have to do without it for a while.
The fact that so many people follow these rules of conduct touches me deeply. This is how we show care for the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions. Because that is where the virus would be most dangerous. In short, it is how we save lives.
As I told you on Wednesday, as dynamic as the spread of the virus is, we must always be flexible in our approach. We have to learn in the moment, from the experts, who are always gaining new knowledge from the epidemic, and from observing reality. What measures are being implemented smoothly and where are the problems and why?
With this in mind, the Federal Government and the Federal States have agreed today to further extend the guidelines for behavior and for freedom of movement and mobility, which everyone must adhere to. In this way, we will continue to consistently reduce public life and social contacts and ensure that the same rules apply in principle throughout Germany. Many citizens have clearly let us know that they want this clarity in the Federal States as well. Everyone should know: All levels of government in Germany – the Federal Government, the States and the Local Authorities – are working towards one major, indeed vital, goal: to gain time in the fight against the virus.
That is why we have agreed today on the following supplementary guidelines, which I would like to present to you.
Firstly. Citizens are urged to reduce contact with people outside the members of their own household to a necessary minimum.
Secondly. In public, wherever possible, a minimum distance of at least 1.5 meters, or better still, 2 meters, must be kept from persons other than those mentioned under the first point.
Thirdly. It is only permitted to stay in public places alone, with another person not living in the household or with members of one's own household.
Fourthly. The way to work, emergency care, shopping, visits to the doctor, participation in meetings, necessary appointments and examinations, help for other or individual sports and exercise in the fresh air as well as other necessary activities remain of course possible.
Fifthly. Groups of people celebrating in public places, in homes and private institutions are unacceptable given the seriousness of the situation in our country. Violations of contact restrictions should be monitored by law enforcement agencies and the police and sanctions should be imposed in the event of violations.
Sixthly. Catering establishments will be closed. This does not include the delivery and collection of takeaway food for consumption at home.
Seventhly. Personal hygiene services such as hairdressers, beauty parlors, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and similar establishments are being closed down because of the physical closeness that is essential for the exercise of the profession, and therefore do not fit in with the guidelines we have set ourselves. Medically necessary treatment will continue to be possible.
Eighthly. In all establishments, and especially those open to the public, it is important to comply with hygiene regulations and to implement effective protective measures for employees and visitors.
Ninth. These measures should have a minimum duration of two weeks.
This means that everyone, wherever he or she lives, knows exactly where he or she stands. Everyone should organize his or her movements and life for the next few weeks according to these clear guidelines.
None of us who bear political responsibility in a democracy would ever wish to have to come before the citizens with such regulations. But I would also say that these are not just any recommendations from the state. They are rules that must be observed in the interests of us all. The forces of law and order will check them, and where they find violations, there will be consequences and penalties.
I therefore repeat my urgent appeal to all of you, especially to those few who have struggled to comply with the rules in recent days:
Please we have to work together. Do now what is right for our country. Show reason and heart. Countless fellow citizens work in the health system or maintain our daily care. We should always thank them for that. But most of all, we owe them for giving the virus as little chance of spreading as we can.
It is a great encouragement on this day to see that millions upon millions of people are making this renunciation out of a sense of community and care for those at risk in a very practical way. I am convinced that this public spirit, this "we stand up for each other" will carry us all together through this difficult time.
Thank you very much.
The speech in its original German version can be found here. The German Government reserves all rights.
The speech was translated by Jacobs University’s Corporate Communication department.