Germany’s Merkel defends government record during pandemic

International

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for a debate about her policy as part of Germany’s budget 2021 debate at the parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday defended her government’s record during the coronavirus pandemic, telling lawmakers that the country had fared well compared to many of its peers.

The far-right Alternative for Germany, the largest opposition party, accused Merkel during a budget debate in Parliament of using the crisis as an excuse to spend taxpayers’ money and promote what it described as “corona socialism.”

Merkel rejected the charge, noting that despite putting together an unprecedented stimulus package and breaking its previous borrowing rules, Germany continues to have the lowest public debt ratio of all countries in the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

Germany, like many of its European neighbors, has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Official figures released Wednesday showed 1,798 new cases nationwide in the last 24 hours, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 289,219. Germany has also had nearly 9,500 confirmed virus-related deaths, a toll that is one-fourth that of Britain or Italy.

The long-time leader, who has said she won’t stand for a fifth term next year, said it was right to invest the recovery funds into forward-looking technologies and industries that will help tackle climate change and future-proof the economy.

Before ending her speech, Merkel turned directly to the public, urging people to follow the rules imposed to limit the spread of the virus.

“We are not at the end of the pandemic,” Merkel told lawmakers. “We have a difficult time ahead of us in autumn and winter.”

Social distancing and hygiene rules “doesn’t just protect the elderly, not just the so-called ‘at-risk persons,’ but our open, free society as a whole,” Merkel said. “For now we have to show that we can continue to act patiently and reasonably, and thereby save lives.”

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