German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that up to 70% of the German population could come down with the novel coronavirus.
“Given a virus for which there is no immunity and no immunization, we have to understand that many people will be infected, the consensus among experts is that 60 to 70% of the population will be infected,” Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin.
Merkel did not cite a source for her alarming statistic, which would translate into as many as 58 million infections in Germany.
Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch put out a prediction in February that between 40 and 70% of the world’s population could come down with coronavirus, known as COVID-19, but he revised those numbers down to a 20-60% infection rate based on data on the virus’s transmissibility.
Merkel said that since there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, the goal in fighting the virus is to delay and limit its spread, so that hospitals can better manage the epidemic.
“It’s about winning time,” she said, according to Reuters.
Merkel’s remarks are in stark contrast to those of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly expressed confidence that the U.S. will be able to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“When you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” Trump said at a White House press conference Feb. 26.
As of Wednesday, nearly 1,700 Germans had tested positive for COVID-19. The United States surpassed the 1,000-case threshold Tuesday night. The U.S. has a far higher death tally from the virus compared to Germany, thanks in large part to an outbreak at a nursing home near Seattle, Washington.
U.S. officials said that 31 people have died here from complications from COVID-19, most of them elderly or with underlying health conditions. Only two people have died in Germany from COVID-19, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.