German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives to make a press statement on the spread of the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Chancellery, in Berlin on March 22, 2020.
Michael Kappeler | AFP | Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made the decision to self-quarantine in her home after having contact with a doctor who tested positive for the coronavirus, making her the latest world leader to take precautions after possible exposure to the rapidly spreading disease.
Merkel was informed after a press conference Sunday that a doctor who administered a pneumococcal vaccine to her Friday afternoon tested positive for the virus, according to her spokesman Steffen Seibert.
Merkel decided to immediately quarantine herself in her home, Seibert said. She will be tested regularly over the coming days and will continue to conduct her duties as chancellor from home. Her decision to self-quarantine comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate across Europe.
Earlier Sunday, Merkel announced that Germany was banning meetings of more than two people in public for the next two weeks to contain the spreading virus, bringing life in the European Union’s largest economy to a virtual standstill. Exceptions to the rules are being made for people who live together and for work-related gatherings
“The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus,” Merkel said during a press briefing Sunday.
Germany is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, with more than 23,000 people who have tested positive, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. At least 92 people have died from the virus in the country.
Europe is in a state of lockdown as the epicenter of the global pandemic has shifted from China to countries like Italy, Spain, Germany and France. These countries, the key economies in the EU, have closed all nonessential shops, crippling economic life in the bloc of nations that share the euro currency. Italy has the highest number of reported infections outside China, followed by Spain, the United States, Germany, Iran, France and South Korea.
Germany has effectively closed its borders temporarily with France, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg to stop the virus from spreading.
As the pandemic spreads, there is growing concern that world leaders like Merkel could contract the virus, potentially impacting critical functions of government.
U.S. President Donald Trump tested negative for the virus after contact with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s press secretary, who tested positive. Bolsonaro tested negative. Vice President Mike Pence also tested negative after a member of his office tested positive. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife tested positive for the virus.