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The German Chancellor’s warning comes as Germany recorded its highest daily rise in infections since April. Mrs Merkel touted the idea of tightening controls on travel to coronavirus “risk zones” including the United States and Spain.
She criticised Germans for their “careless socialising” which had led to the country’s infection rate doubling over the past three weeks.
During a visit to the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, she warned against adopting the idea that the worst days of the epidemic were in the past.
She said: “We are in the middle of the pandemic.
“The virus is out there, even if you can’t see it.
“There is no vaccine and no treatment.
“If the infection numbers go down, we can open things up more; if they don’t, or if they rise, we must consider what might be necessary.
“There can be no more loosening [of the rules] at present.”
In North Rhine-Westphalia authorities in four cities are dealing with new clusters of COVID-19.
On Monday 1,689 fresh infections were registered in Germany – the highest daily number since April 24.
On Tuesday a further 1,390 cases were recorded, bringing the total tally to 225,404.
The seven-day average remains more than 1,000 daily cases.
The reported death toll is 9,236, according to the Robert Koch Institute.
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Mrs Merkel said: “The good news is, if we stick to the rules, a lot of public life is possible.
“If the numbers go back down we can open up more.
“If they don’t, or rise, we must ask what is needed and in any case a further easing of measures cannot take place now.”
Only 25 of Germany’s 294 districts have managed to completely rid themselves of the virus.
Concentrated outbreaks have sprung up in the capital Berlin as well as the western cities of Offenbach, Duisburg and Wuppertal.
And in the rural Bavarian district of Dingolfing-Landau the infection rate is edging closer to the threshold that would trigger a local lockdown.
Germans are set to see police step up checks on mask wearing and social distancing over the coming weeks.
The chancellor has welcomed the higher fines imposed by some states for failure to wear a face covering in close-packed public spaces.
Under Germany’s federal system Mrs Merkel has the power to coordinate restrictions but responsibility lies primarily with the 16 states, or Bundesländer.
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