German governor is criticized for virus outbreak

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DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) – The governor of Germany’s most populous state was criticized on Wednesday for tackling a major coronavirus outbreak in a slaughterhouse, as part of the western region was partially closed.

The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia announced on Tuesday the reintroduction of many closure measures in the province of Guetersloh, home to the Toennies slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, and the neighboring province of Warendorf, where many of its workers live. Together, the two districts have more than 600,000 inhabitants.

More than 1,000 infections have been linked to the slaughterhouse, and Governor Armin Laschet said restrictions were imposed for a week to “calm down” the situation, extend testing, and determine if the virus was outside workers has spread.

Political opponents and other critics argue that he should have acted earlier. Laschet, who is also a candidate for leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right party – and possibly succeeding Merkel as Germany’s leader – has been a leading advocate of easing the limitations of the corona virus since April.

“Today, Rheda-Wiedenbrueck is the largest hotspot in all of Europe,” center-left opposition leader Thomas Kutschaty told the state parliament in Düsseldorf. “The state could have used a government that intervened quickly and decisively and waited a week to prevent a second wave of infections from spreading all over Germany and Europe.”

“Now we can only hope that it is not too late,” said Kutschaty.

Laschet firmly defended his position. Speaking for Kutschaty on Wednesday, he noted that his state is now the first to significantly reverse restrictions easing.

Laschet said the restrictions were all needed earlier this year.

“But I expect everyone who is responsible, every head of government, to ask himself when he gets up in the morning: is this intervention in fundamental rights still necessary? Laschet said. “And if he concludes it is, it will be extended – but he shouldn’t think every morning, what else can I limit and prohibit?”

The legislature of 199 member states met for the first time since the pandemic in Germany in full force, with three-sided acrylic booths around the seats to separate the legislators. In recent weeks, only a third of the legislators were present because of the aloof rules.

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