German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "we are in a difficult stage of the pandemic" in a press conference on Thursday. Germany extended its current lockdown to at least February 14 on Tuesday, reflecting the high daily infection rate and death count. "On the one hand, the number of daily infections is gradually going down," Merkel said. "And the number of people in intensive care is going down. This is all good news." She also stressed that the coronavirus regulations would be positive for every part of society in the long term — education, culture, and the economy. "But the virus is still very dangerous. We have a shockingly high death count, more than 1000 people today," she said. She spoke about the danger of the mutations of the virus and said that genome sequencing of new variants would be the main topic of discussion at the European Union's video conference on Thursday evening. "Epidemiologically the EU is one region," she said, calling for equivalent measures to fight the virus across the bloc.
Merkel said the possibility of herd immunity in Germany with the vaccine program was out of her hands — instead, it depended on how many citizens want to be vaccinated. The World Health Organization has estimated that 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity; around 1.5% of the German population has been vaccinated so far. She said Germany will have "more than enough vaccine doses" in the course of this year and expressed hope that production can be ramped up. The chancellor also hoped for vaccines for younger people. More younger people have been affected by this wave of the pandemic than in spring 2020. "This pandemic is the disaster of the century. Patience is being put to the test," Merkel said. She also addressed concerns about the international inequality of vaccine distribution access across the world. She said that international cooperation will be key in ending the pandemic.
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