German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on February 14, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Felix Zahn | Photothek via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that up to 70% of the German population will likely contract the coronavirus, suggesting that the government’s priority is about “slowing its spread.”

Germany has so far reported 1,565 cases of the virus and three deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the chancellor has come under fire for her government’s handling of the response.

“When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70% of the population will be infected,” Merkel told a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The country has over 82 million citizens.

“The process has to be focused on not overburdening the health system by slowing the virus’s spread. It’s about winning time.”

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has since been quoted by CTK news agency as saying that Merkel’s statements “cause panic.”

Merkel said Berlin would spend whatever was necessary to contain the virus in Germany, but declined to commit to providing direct material aid to virus-stricken Italy.

Confirmed cases in Italy have surpassed 10,000 with deaths spiking to 631, and Merkel told reporters that her government would play its part in combating the fallout from the epidemic, insisting a proposed European Union package of fiscal measures would not fail because of Germany.

More than 121,000 cases and 4,368 deaths have now been confirmed around the world. 

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