‘We are all in this to­gether’

Pretoria News - - METRO -

on them to or­gan­ise their re­turn as soon as pos­si­ble. The Ger­man em­bassy has set up a ded­i­cated hot­line for Ger­man trav­ellers: 012 428 9876. They can also send their en­quiries to corona-an­fra­gen@pret.diplo.de. We are also ask­ing all Ger­man tourists to stay up­dated by fol­low­ing the Ger­man em­bassy on Facebook and Twitter, as well as to visit our web­site www. southafric­a.diplo.de, which is con­tin­u­ously up­dated with new in­for­ma­tion.

We are very happy that all Ger­man pas­sen­gers that were aboard the AIDAmiracr­uise ship in Cape Town have now trav­elled home safely to Germany. We thank the ship’s crew, Lufthansa and the South African au­thor­i­ties for their great co-op­er­a­tion in or­gan­is­ing their swift re­turn. We are count­ing on this good co-op­er­a­tion to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of the re­main­ing Ger­man tourists in South Africa.

IM. What are your im­pres­sions of the steps an­nounced by the South African govern­ment to try to con­tain the spread of the virus, in­clud­ing the lock­down from Fri­day?

MS. We com­mend Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa for the steps his govern­ment has taken. We call on all Ger­mans and South Africans to fol­low the new reg­u­la­tions. Ev­ery­one has a personal re­spon­si­bil­ity to do their bit to pre­vent the virus from spread­ing. That con­cerns hy­gienic mea­sures. And it obviously also con­cerns the lock­down. We can only bat­tle the spread of the virus if ev­ery sin­gle per­son does their bit.

IM. Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel has been placed in self-quar­an­tine. Do you think it brings home the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion when a world leader is di­rectly af­fected?

MS. Chan­cel­lor Merkel took the re­spon­si­ble step into self-quar­an­tine af­ter her doc­tor tested pos­i­tive for the virus. This shows what we all know: The virus can af­fect any one of us. We must all act re­spon­si­bly.

IM. How has the Ger­man pub­lic re­acted to the na­tion­wide crack­down?

MS. The new mea­sures are obviously putting a bur­den on ev­ery­one of us – whether in South Africa or in Germany. On families, on par­ents, on in­di­vid­u­als, and most of all – on the many tire­less peo­ple work­ing in health sec­tors across the globe. It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to take ac­tion now – each and ev­ery one of us.

I can only re­it­er­ate that the virus does not stop at in­ter­na­tional bor­ders. As much as the peo­ple in my home coun­try, peo­ple any­where across the globe must now act re­spon­si­bly.

IM. Germany is ahead of SA in the coro­n­avirus in­fec­tion curve: what lessons are there for South Africa in your ex­pe­ri­ence?

MS. Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa acted fast and res­o­lutely in reaction to the spread­ing of the virus. We com­mend him for his swift ac­tion. If the virus has taught us any­thing in the last few weeks, it is that we can­not af­ford to wait and see. We must act now.

IM. What are the im­pli­ca­tions of this pan­demic for Germany-South Africa re­la­tions, in par­tic­u­lar tourism and trade be­tween our coun­tries, es­pe­cially with re­gard to Ger­man com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in SA?

MS. Some­thing quite un­usual took place last Fri­day. Naledi Pan­dor, the

South African for­eign min­is­ter, and Heiko Maas, her Ger­man coun­ter­part, held a video con­fer­ence to con­clude the 10th bi­na­tional com­mis­sion (BNC) be­tween our two coun­tries. Nor­mally, govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives meet in per­son ev­ery two years in the frame­work of the BNC to agree the bi­lat­eral agenda for the com­ing months. We did it re­motely this time, due to the coro­n­avirus. And we agreed on many im­por­tant new co-op­er­a­tion projects – in the fields of science, ed­u­ca­tion, vo­ca­tional train­ing and for­eign pol­icy. That shows that diplo­macy does not stop in times of cri­sis. To the con­trary, we must work to­gether, par­tic­u­larly now.

I am very happy to tell you that Germany has de­cided to pro­vide a to­tal of around R40 mil­lion to South Africa to help fight the spread of the coro­n­avirus. The funds are in­tended for South African au­thor­i­ties to ac­quire test kits and hospi­tal equip­ment to fight Covid-19.

IM. Do you have any other com­ments you wish to add?

MS. We are in this to­gether. Let’s all act re­spon­si­bly to fight the virus to­gether.

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