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Merkel welcomes better COVID-19 situation but Delta variant a worry

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BERLIN -A recent improvement in the number of new coronavirus cases in Germany was pleasing, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday but she warned that the pandemic was not over and the risk from the Delta variant, widespread in Britain, was worrying.

“The development in terms of numbers is extremely gratifying,” Merkel told reporters after talks with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states.

“But we must not forget that the coronavirus has not disappeared and what worries us is the so-called Delta variant which has spread in Britain,” she added.

She said travel restrictions imposed on Britain and India had been justified because the variant spread fast.

In May, Germany declared Britain and Northern Ireland a virus variant region, requiring anyone entering the country from the United Kingdom to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

Currently, about 2.5% of positive coronavirus cases in Germany were linked to the Delta variant, Merkel said.

Germany was in a race against the virus with vaccinations and it was essential to maximise protection against the Delta variant with inoculations, she said.

After a slow start, the pace of vaccinations has picked up in Germany, with about 47% of the population of about 83 million having had at least one dose and 24% fully vaccinated.

Merkel said booster vaccinations should start for older people in the autumn.

Many restrictions have been lifted across the country in the last few weeks as the number of new infections has fallen. The number of new cases rose by 3,187 to 3.7 million, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Thursday. Germany has a death toll of 89,585.

The leaders discussed how to stage big events in future, including sporting fixtures but reached no agreement.

“We have a summer ahead that has a lot of possibilities, but we must not be carefree, we must keep looking at the situation very closely,” said Merkel.

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