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UPDATE 1-Merkel welcomes better COVID-19 situation but Delta variant is a concern

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BERLIN, June 10 (Reuters) – A recent improvement in the number of new coronavirus cases in Germany is satisfactory, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, but she warned the pandemic was not over and the risk of the variant Delta, prevalent in Britain, was worrying.

“The evolution in terms of numbers is extremely gratifying,” Merkel told reporters after talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 Länder.

“But we must not forget that the coronavirus has not disappeared and what worries us is the so-called Delta variant which has spread in Britain,” she added.

She said the travel restrictions on Britain and India were justified because the variant spread quickly.

In May, Germany declared Britain and Northern Ireland a region of viral variants, forcing anyone entering the country from the UK to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Currently, around 2.5% of positive coronavirus cases in Germany have been linked to the Delta variant, Merkel said.

Germany was in a race against the virus with vaccinations and it was essential to maximize protection against the Delta variant with inoculations, she said.

After a slow start, the pace of vaccinations picked up in Germany, with around 47% of the population of around 83 million having received at least one dose and 24% fully vaccinated.

Merkel said booster vaccinations should start for the elderly in the fall.

Numerous restrictions have been lifted across the country in recent weeks as the number of new infections has declined. The number of new cases rose by 3,187 to 3.7 million, the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases said Thursday. Germany has a death toll of 89,585.

The leaders discussed how to organize big events in the future, including sporting events, but did not come to any agreement.

“We have a summer ahead of us which has a lot of possibilities, but we must not be reckless, we must continue to watch the situation very closely,” Merkel said. (Report by Paul Carrel and Madeline Chambers, edited by Alexandra Hudson)

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