German interior minister refuses Merkel’s handshake amid coronavirus fears

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel was refused a handshake by German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Monday, as German officials struggle with a rapidly growing outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany had risen to 150 on Monday from 129 on Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said.

More than half of the cases, 86, are in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where several schools and daycare centers will be closed on Monday to try to prevent the spread of the virus after staff members tested positive.

Seehofer had previously told reporters he had stopped offering handshakes amid the outbreak.

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At a meeting on migration on Monday, Merkel took back her hand after Seehofer had refused, laughing and holding up her hands, in an awkward moment between the two politicians who have been known to butt heads.

A German government crisis committee has widened cross-border travel guidelines and canceled major international events, and the health minister has advised people with cold symptoms to stay away from mass events.

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