Mar 18, 2020 - World

Coronavirus is greatest challenge since World War II, Merkel warns

Angela Merkel prepares to address the nation. Photo: Steffen Kugler/Bundesregierung via Getty Images

In a national address with no precedent in her 14 years as chancellor, Angela Merkel said Germany now faces the gravest challenge since World War II.

What she’s saying: “Take it seriously. Since German unification, no, since the Second World War, there has been no challenge to our nation that has demanded such a degree of common and united action," Merkel said, per DW.

  • Not one for dramatic statements, Merkel’s elevated warnings come with French President Emmanuel Macron declaring his country now “at war” and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson noting that the societal changes underway are unprecedented in peacetime.
  • Merkel had never before made a televised address to the nation beyond her annual New Years' address, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Cases of coronavirus jumped 9% in Germany on Wednesday alone, to 12,000. The country has experienced relatively few deaths, with 28 to date.

  • German health officials warned Wednesday that as many as 10 million people could be infected in the next two to three months if social contact is not significantly reduced.
  • Merkel herself warned last week that up to 70% of Germany’s population — some 60 million people — could eventually be infected.
  • "It's down to each and every one of us. We are not doomed to helplessly watch the spread of the virus. We have a means to fight it: we must practice social distancing out of consideration for one another,” she said in Wednesday’s speech.

What to watch: Germany’s policy response is ramping up, though it is not yet as sweeping as in Italy or France, where people have been ordered to leave their homes only when absolutely necessary. Germany has closed its borders and put travel restrictions on its citizens.

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In a national address on Monday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the latest world leader to order a nationwide lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Johnson warned on Sunday that a surge of coronavirus cases over the next two weeks could cripple the country's National Health Service, and that the U.K. is only "a matter of weeks" behind Italy — now the site of the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world.

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Slow progress for female world leaders

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While the U.S. has yet to break the presidential glass ceiling, 57 countries worldwide have been led by women since 1960.

The big picture: That year, former Sri Lankan prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the modern world's first female head of state. Finland and New Zealand have led the way in electing women since, with three women leaders each.

Boris Johnson: Coronavirus outbreak in U.K. is only weeks behind Italy

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday that a surge of coronavirus cases over the next two weeks could cripple the country's National Health Service (NHS), Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Johnson said the U.K., in terms of cases, is only "a matter of weeks — two or three — behind Italy," which overtook China last week as the country with the most reported deaths from the virus.

Go deeperArrowMar 22, 2020 - World