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Merkel says Germany past peak of second COVID wave

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel points as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel points as she arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.   -   Copyright  Michael Sohn/AP Photo, Pool
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Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany is past the peak of its latest coronavirus wave but that before lifting restrictions she would wait for data on COVID variants.

In an interview with German broadcaster RTL, Merkel said Germans would have to "hold out a little longer" before vaccinations have an effect on hospitalisations.

“I can see a light shining at the end of the tunnel,” Merkel said while she warned against "false hopes."

Germany has recorded 2.2 million cases of the the virus and has reported nearly 60,000 deaths.

The country shut schools, restaurants and most stores in December to stop the surge of cases in the country.

Merkel said 70 of the country’s 401 regions saw the number of new cases go below the target threshold of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in a week.

“We're going to get information at the end of the week or the beginning of next week on how widespread the mutation, this British virus, is,” she said, referring to the more transmissible variant that first emerged in southeast England last year.

Merkel said she's had some restless nights trying to make decisions that affect the lives of millions, and cited a town hall meeting earlier in which she spoke to families struggling under the strain of the lockdown.

She also defended the slow vaccine rollout in the EU, which has been blamed on late approval and orders. Germany has vaccinated more than two million people so far.

“I think we're going to catch up quite a bit,” she said, adding that new mutations might require routine vaccinations in the future, similar to the flu.

Asked how she manages to keep her signature hairstyle in shape during the lockdown, which has led to the closure of hairdressers, Merkel acknowledged receiving “the help of an assistant.”

“Of course, we adhere to all the hygiene requirements,” she said. “And the fact that one slowly turns grey is something one has to live with. So I'm looking forward to hairdressers being able to open again.”