Germany's Merkel points to variant risk as infections drop

Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany is seeing a promising decline in new coronavirus infections, but must take “very seriously” the risk posed by a more contagious variant and will have to be cautious whenever it starts easing its lockdown

The new variant, which has been detected in Germany and many other European countries, isn't yet dominant there, but “we must take the danger from this mutation very seriously,” Merkel told reporters.

“We must slow the spread of this mutation as far as possible, and that means ... we must not wait until the danger is more tangible here,” she said. “Then it would be too late to prevent a third wave of the pandemic, and possibly an even heavier one than before. We can still prevent this.”

Merkel said that Germany won't be able to open up everything at once whenever the lockdown ends, declaring that schools must open first.

“We must be very careful that we do not see what happens in many countries: they do a hard lockdown, they open, they open too much, and then they have the result that they are back in exponential growth very quickly,” she said. She pointed to Britain's experience in December, when the new variant took hold.