Merkel Blasts ‘Unacceptable’ Stigma Against People in Virus Hotspots

A young woman wears a facemark as people gather at the Alexander Platz in Berlin, Germany, on June 6 to protest against the recent killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in the United States. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AFP) — Anger against people from two districts in Germany under new coronavirus lockdowns is “completely unacceptable and disgusting,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Friday after reports they are being targeted with insults and vandalism.

“That people from Guetersloh and Warendorf are sometimes insulted, that their cars are scratched, is of course completely unacceptable and disgusting behavior,” Steffen Seibert told a government press conference.

“We must treat each other with respect and sympathy, especially in difficult situations,” Seibert said, adding that anyone could find themselves suddenly living in a Covid-19 hotspot.

German authorities on Tuesday ordered fresh lockdowns in the two neighboring districts in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia after a coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse that has infected more than 1,500 workers.

However, of 1,655 tests carried out in the wider population in Guetersloh by Thursday, only three had come back positive, according to local authorities.

Several German states have nevertheless said they will turn away would-be tourists from the affected districts.

A couple from Guetersloh were booted off the Baltic Sea island of Usedom this week, and Bavaria said its hotels would not take bookings from anyone from high-risk areas.

North Rhine-Westphalia state Premier Armin Laschet has advised people to get tested for Covid-19 if they wish to travel elsewhere in Germany.

“For those people who are planning a holiday, we recommend that you get tested,” he said. “But one thing is not OK: that people from the district of Guetersloh are openly stigmatized.”

Germany became the first major EU country to begin easing virus restrictions about seven weeks ago.

It is counting on contact tracing, through human trackers and a new app, to isolate new infections.

© Agence France-Presse

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