Horst Seehofer refuses to shake hands with Angela Merkel for hygienic reasons before a migration summit at the Chancellery in Berlin on Monday. Reuters
Germany's interior minister rebuffed Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to shake hands with him on Monday as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 150 with Berlin reporting its first infection.
When Merkel reached out to greet Horst Seehofer at a meeting on migration in Berlin, he smiled and kept both his hands to himself.
They both laughed and Merkel then threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat.
Health experts have recommended avoiding handshakes as a way of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
There are now 150 confirmed cases in Germany, Lothar Weiler of the Robert Koch Institute disease control agency said on Monday morning − up from 129 the previous day.
The alert level has been raised from "low to moderate" to "moderate," Weiler said, with authorities saying there was no need for drastic measures like border closure to stem the contagion.
The virus has now spread to 10 of Germany's 16 states, with more than half the confirmed cases in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Germany's most populous state emerged as a hotspot after an infected couple attended carnival celebrations there, infecting dozens of people.
Germany has cancelled several major gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including this week's ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.
Health Minister Jens Spahn stressed on Monday that it was too early to say whether further public events would be cancelled.
She filled her shopping cart with cherries, soap, wine and toilet paper, among other things and she paid by card at the checkout.
Germany began tentatively lifting its lockdown two weeks ago, opening some shops and schools, after infection rates came down. Merkel and the state leaders agreed last week to loosen the rules further, giving religious institutions, playgrounds, museums and zoos the green light to open.
Merkel announced steps on Wednesday to ease the coronavirus lockdown in Germany but at the same time launched an "emergency brake" mechanism allowing for renewed restrictions in case infections pick up again.
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