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COVID-19 hits the Cabinet and German leaders shrug

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When the news that Health Minister Jens Spahn had tested positive for the coronavirus was made public last week, many in Germany expected that half of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet would have to isolate, as well. In the morning on the day he tested positive, Spahn participated in a meeting of government ministers. There was certainly a vocal exchange — possibly loud at times — and maybe even some laughter. Not everyone present would have worn masks the entire time. And is a meeting like that even safe? It's the federal government, after all.

DW's Rosalia Romaniec

There is a risk wherever people meet. And these are German leaders who are accompanied by security personnel and government staff to several meetings a day as part of their job governing a country of 80 million people. Even more concerning is that nobody decided to isolate after hearing of Spahn's positive test — not even as a precautionary measure. In the end, a single minister decided to have herself tested.

Read more: Coronavirus deaths in Germany pass 10,000

On the day Spahn's infection was confirmed, his spokesperson said the health minister had had "no fever," but that "cold symptoms" were present. Excuse me? Did Spahn go into the Cabinet meeting with cold symptoms? The reassuring answer came two days later: no — in the meeting, Spahn had just noticed a hoarse throat, but the cold symptoms didn't come until later, which is why he decided to test that very day.

Read more: German lawmakers urge shorter coronavirus quarantine

Merkel did not recommend that all who were present at the meeting be tested — but her spokesperson did clarify the hygiene policies of the Chancellery and noted that the meeting had been held in a large open room with modern ventilation. That which is not wrong, is not automatically right, of course. Possible doubts could quickly have been clarified. A government that is urging Germans to follow strict measures could have........

© Deutsche Welle

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