July 3, 2020 / 11:42 AM / a month ago

Merkel makes first masked appearance to ward off criticism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a face mask arrives to attend a session at the upper house of the German parliament Bundesrat, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Berlin, Germany, July 3, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her first public appearance wearing a mask on Friday after dismissing accusations of hypocrisy earlier this week for not wearing one.

Merkel entered the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, wearing a black mask marked with EU2020.de, a website dedicated to Germany’s six-month presidency of the European Union which started on July 1.

Merkel, whose government has made wearing a mask compulsory in some public places, was asked by a journalist at a news conference on Monday why she had never been seen wearing a mask in public.

The chancellor, who is known to keep a close eye on opinion polls, responded that she did not need to wear a mask when she was observing social distancing rules, but did so when she could not, for example during private shopping trips when she was not in the public eye.

“But I won’t tell you where I go shopping,” she said with a smile.

Merkel has been lauded for her response to the coronavirus crisis and her approval ratings have surged. Europe’s largest economy has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic better than most of its neighbours, helped by relatively soft lockdown measures that allowed some social and industrial activity to continue throughout the peak months of the epidemic, as well as hefty rescue and stimulus packages.

Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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