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Markus Soder, Minister President of the region, is leader of the CSU, the Bavarian party which is in a permanent alliance with Mrs Merkel’s CDU, and is considered a leading candidate to replace her when she steps down next year. However, he was forced to apologise on Friday after the revelation that 44,000 people – including 900 confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 – had been waiting for their results for more than a fortnight.
Mr Soder appeared at a press conference alongside Melanie Huml, State Minister for Health and Nursing to discuss the situation.
The awkward event saw Mr Soder point out on at least two occasions that Mrs Huml had offered her resignation, adding: “I continue to trust her.
“Mistakes happen. They have to be recognised.”
He promises often too much too early
Former German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel told Express.co.uk the saga had left Mr Soder “tarnished”, adding: “The halo has slipped somewhat.”
He added: “Soder is extremely ambitious and used the pandemic not only to protect Bavarians but also to boost his image.
“He promises often too much too early.
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“In this case he pushed for new test capacities and made the mistake to announce their availability much too early.
“As a result, additional thousands of people got tested but most of the waited for days for the result because the bureaucracy wasn’t ready.
“This led for instance to a German – who was tested in Bavaria upon his return from a risk country – travelling to his home city Hamburg where he moved around for a week not knowing that he was tested positive.”
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Assessing Mr Soder’s chances, Mr Henkel said as the leader of CSU, the CDU’s sister party, he is in an “unannounced contest for the candidature of Chancellor in the elections in the fall of 2021”.
He faced competition from three CDU politicians who are contesting the leadership of their party after the resignation of Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer, with the results to be announced early next year.
Of the three – Armin Laschet, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the influential Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Friedrich Merz, who was narrowly defeated by Mrs Kramp-Karrenbauer in 2019, Mr Henkel backs the latter.
On Saturday, Germany saw the biggest increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since late April, a rise of 1,415, but on Sunday the increase was just 625, although fewer cases are usually registered at the weekend.
The total number of cases now stands at 224,634, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre
Despite the problems in Bavaria, Mr Henkel still believes Germany is weathering the ongoing pandemic better than many other nations.
He said: “Yes, the numbers of new infections is rising again in Germany after many restrictions were lifted.
“But it seems that the situation is under control as compared to the one in most other nations.
“The most important number to watch is the number if corona deaths.
“And here, Germany has far less victims in absolute and in relative terms as compared to US, UK, Spain, France and most other nations.”
Mr Henkel is by no means the only Germany-based expert to be unconvinced by Mr Soder’s handling of the situation.
Dr Hugo Muller-Vogg, journalist and former editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, wrote after the press conference: “Markus Soder, who revelled in the polls, now has the reputation of being a breakdown strategist.
“The anti-corona hero has shrunk to normal size overnight.”
Speaking in Brussels last month at a crunch European Council meeting, which agreed a £677billion package of measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the continent, Mrs Merkel said: “In the next months it is essential to try to contain the pandemic and to overcome the consequences.
“Those are health-related, social, and economic consequences.
“I believe in Europe. I am convinced by Europe. No one can make it through this crisis alone. We are all vulnerable.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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