Germany has been facing its biggest challenge in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic "since World War II," said Chancellor Angela Merkel in a television speech in which she asked citizens to take comprehensive detention measures.
In her dramatic appeal, Merkel urged everyone to help slow down a virus that is common worldwide and has triggered unprecedented peacekeeping.
"The situation is serious. Take it seriously. Not since German reunification, no, not since World War II, our country has faced a challenge that depends so much on our collective solidarity," she said.
Although her 15-year tenure was marked by strikes such as the financial crisis, the refugee crisis in 2015, and Brexit, the veteran leader never went on the air to address citizens directly outside of traditional New Year's greetings.
"I am firmly convinced that we can fulfill this task if all citizens really understand their own tasks," said Merkel.
Federal and local governments have closed schools, many businesses, and public spaces in recent days to slow the spread of the virus.
However, the country has stopped ordering people to stay at home, as opposed to the stricter restrictions introduced in France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain.
Still, the Germans went outside to enjoy the spring sun and socialize, and even held "corona parties" when the authorities struggled to get the message home that people have to avoid social contacts.
Further border controls
Merkel, who comes from the former communist east of Germany, said she understood how difficult it was to give up "hard-fought rights" such as freedom of movement and freedom of travel.
Such decisions were never taken lightly in a democracy and could only be temporary. "But they are now necessary to save lives."
Europe's top economy introduced strict controls on its land borders with France, Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and Switzerland on Monday, which only allow cross-border commuters and vans.
The German Ministry of the Interior extended these restrictions to European air and sea transport on Wednesday evening.
Flights from Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Luxembourg as well as ships from Denmark are now checked.
Those with "an urgent reason for travel and commuting" are asked to provide documentation to justify their arrival, the ministry said in a statement, while others are denied entry.
Hotels as hospitals
Merkel's historical speech corresponded to that of French President Emmanuel Macron, who compared the outbreak to the war in a somber speech on Monday after ordering almost the entire population to stay at least two weeks at home.
Germany is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The latest figures show 12 deaths and 8,198 confirmed cases on Wednesday, a jump of 1,042 from the previous day.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health warned that there could be 10 million cases within two to three months if people do not avoid contact.
"Germany has an excellent health system," said Merkel, thanking doctors and other medical practitioners "on the front line for us in this fight".
"Even our hospitals will be overwhelmed if too many patients with severe symptoms of the coronavirus are treated in a short period of time," added the conservative leader.
To increase medical capacity, the federal and state governments announced steps on Wednesday to double the intensive airway care and create new treatment rooms.
Germany currently has around 25,000 intensive care beds with breathing capacity, and Berlin has ordered thousands of new breathing apparatuses to increase this number.
Federal and state officials have now said rooms such as hotels, rehabilitation centers and public halls could be converted into rooms for treating people with milder symptoms.
In her speech, Merkel reiterated that Berlin "will do everything to cushion the economic impact and preserve jobs" and discouraged citizens from hoarding.
"Even if some (supermarket) shelves are emptied in a day, they will be replenished," she promised, thanking the employees in the food industry.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)