Update: just hours after Angela Merkel announced on TV that Germany would ban gatherings of more than two people for the foreseeable future, her spokesman said that Merkel is now in quarantine after meeting a coronavirus-infected doctor.
BREAKING: The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been quarantined after a doctor she had been in contact with tested positive for #coronavirus.— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 22, 2020
For more on this breaking story, head here: https://t.co/sXMc5vAtGO pic.twitter.com/QhPcZnUreD
It was not immediately clear if as a result, Germany contingency plans are activated and Merkel's chancellorship is delegated to someone else until she is cleared of being infected.
And to think that just a few hours earlier Merkel was out and about, doing her own shopping, which some twitter commentator found "oddly comforting."
Merkel buying 4 bottles of wine & some toilet paper while doing her own grocery shopping for the weekend is so oddly comforting pic.twitter.com/e1LfO5JgXE— Alex Leo (@AlexMLeo) March 22, 2020
* * *
Europe is clamping down on any person-to-person contract in what can only be described as an unprecedented lockdown.
On Sunday, Germany, whose coronavirus cases soared in the past week, announced it would ban gatherings of more than two people. And while Germany stopped short of forcibly confining people to their homes - as Wuhan did - it will prevent citizens meeting in groups for at least two weeks, with only families and people sharing a home exempt, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday. Restaurants will be closed except for takeout and delivery services.
"No one wants to stand before the people and discuss such rules," Merkel said apologetically at a news conference in Berlin after a video conference with regional leaders.
That said, family members will be exempt from the rule, Armin Laschet, the premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said at a news conference Sunday, citing an agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and regional leaders.
Merkel has been at odds with some of the nation’s 16 states about how best to contain the virus, which has infected almost 22,000 people and claimed more than 70 lives across Germany. The chancellor - like Trump initially - has been against a rigid lockdown, fearing that such a measure could backfire, but wants a more coordinated approach on restrictions to public life, according to a person familiar with her thinking.
Shortly after, Italy unveiled its most "Wuhanian" crackdown, when it banned any movement inside the country in its latest attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak which has already killed almost 5,500 as of Sunday afternoon .
According to the Italian health ministry, people will be restricted to the municipality where they currently are other than for “non deferrable and proven business or health reasons or other urgent matters." The measure is applied to all private and public transportation.
The new order followed Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s decision late Saturday to temporarily halt all non-essential business activity as the country of 60 million faces its biggest challenge since World War II. Supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and post offices and other essential businesses will stay open, he said.
There was some good news, however. Italy, which in the past month has become the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, showed a modest decline in the number of new cases on Sunday, which dipped for the first time in weeks, from 6,557 to 5,560.
Maybe the draconian containment is finally starting to work?