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Merkel goes into quarantine after meeting with virus-infected doctor

Geman Chancellor Angela Merkel announces on Sunday, March 22, 2020, tough new measures to ban outdoor meetings of more than two people due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Geman Chancellor Angela Merkel announces on Sunday, March 22, 2020, tough new measures to ban outdoor meetings of more than two people due to the coronavirus outbreak. © Bundesregierung / Steffen Kugler, Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine on Sunday after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her tested positive for the coronavirus. The news came as Germany introduced strong new measures to slow the spead of the virus.

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Merkel's spokesman said the chancellor was informed about the doctor's test shortly after holding a news conference announcing the new curbs.

The spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.

He said in a statement that Merkel, 65, would undergo "regular tests" in the coming days and continue with her work from home for the time being.

During her news conference, Merkel announced, among other things, a ban on outdoor meetings of two or more people.

"The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus," Chancellor Angela Merkel told a press briefing.

For at least the next two weeks, people will not be allowed to form groups of more than two in public unless they live together in the same household or the gathering is work-related, she added.

As part of a bundle of stricter rules, restaurants can only offer takeaway services, and hairdressers and beauty, massage and tattoo parlours must close.

Governments in Europe, the epicentre of the global pandemic, have escalated their emergency responses amid a rising death toll.

Italy banned travel within the country after freezing non-essential business activity. Spain wants to extend until April 11 a state of emergency it imposed this month.

Regional states in Germany had previously taken differing approaches in the fight against the virus. Bavaria and smaller Saarland had gone furthest, imposing restrictions to keep people inside their homes save for a number of work-related exceptions.

"We are reducing public life and social interaction further and we are making sure to impose the same rules in principle across Germany," Merkel said.

Last year, Merkel suffered several bouts of shaking at public events, sparking speculation about her health.

"I am aware of the responsibility of my office," she told reporters last July after the tremor episodes. "I behave appropriately as far as my health is concerned ... I look after my health."

Merkel has said she will not seek a fifth term as chancellor in federal elections due by October 2021. She has loomed large on the European stage since 2005, helping guide the EU through the eurozone crisis and opening Germany's doors to migrants fleeing war in the Middle East in 2015, a move that still divides the bloc and her country.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)

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