Coronavirus on the newest: Moderna vaccine solely accessible within the UK in spring

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Erika Solomon in Berlin

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the pandemic was still a serious problem in Europe's largest economy, despite a slowdown in the infection rate, but said she expected an economic "growth spurt" in the coming year.

At a conference held by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday, Ms. Merkel admitted that she wanted it, but had failed to get the heads of state to agree on stricter measures at an hour-long meeting the day before.

Under the German federal system, health policy is largely decided by the states, and they have struggled in recent months to reach a consensus on stricter measures. Last night, Ms. Merkel and the heads of state postponed decisions on new restrictions for the coming winter months to November 25th.

The Chancellor was optimistic about an economic recovery in 2021, but said another reason for not acting faster and taking stronger measures was her belief that this would ultimately be more expensive for Germany economically as well.

Demanding the "democratic imposition" of such restrictions was one of the most difficult decisions of her 15-year term as Chancellor.

"We are learning in and with the pandemic," said Ms. Merkel, noting that, although the number of infections no longer increased exponentially, they were still too high to control the spread of the virus. She was particularly concerned about the continued uncontrolled spread of the virus in Berlin, she said. "Every day counts when fighting the coronavirus."

The Robert Koch Institute said the number of daily confirmed cases reached 14,419 on Monday, which is less than a week earlier. But the death toll was comparatively high, having risen from 154 to 267 a week ago.

Germany survived the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed. The total number of confirmed cases has increased by 50 percent since the end of October from 520,000 to around 800,000 now, while the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units has increased by 70 percent during this period.

At the end of October, the government issued a "lockdown lite" that closed all pubs, restaurants, gyms and theaters for the entire month of November while keeping schools and businesses open.