Closing borders won't stop coronavirus - German health minister

BERLIN (Reuters) - Sealing Germany’s borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus would not work, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday, rejecting calls to follow neighbor Austria in denying entry to visitors from Italy.

Interviewed on Deutschlandfunk radio, Spahn said the focus of Germany’s current approach to the epidemic was to slow the virus’s spread to minimize the peak burden on the country’s health system.

“The virus is in Germany, it is in Europe. That’s the thought we have to get used to,” he said. “It will still spread even if you close all the borders. Sooner or later you have to let people in or out and then it starts spreading again.”

Experts estimate the virus’s mortality rate in an advanced healthcare system like Germany’s at between 0.1% and 0.7%, he said. Though Germany has the most intensive care beds per capita in Europe, its healthcare system could quickly be overwhelmed if the virus spread too quickly.

To avoid that, large events like football matches must be called off, he said. Individuals should be mindful of the disease’s spread in their behavior, whether by doing without concerts or cinema trips, or in greeting parents or grandparents who are more vulnerable because of their age.

He described as “astonishing” the decision not to call off a football match between Union Berlin and Bayern Munich scheduled to take place in Berlin on Saturday.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Douglas Busvine