Angela Merkel’s political star appeared to be on the decline until the pandemic erupted across the world.

Suddenly Germany had exactly the leader it needed. An experienced public figure with a scientific background and a calm demeanor.

The Atlantic has the story here.

BERLIN—Today, we face the global outbreak of a disease that has the potential to catalyze what the historian Eva Schlotheuber terms a “pandemic of the mind.” As misinformation proliferates and lines between fact and fiction are routinely and nonchalantly crossed, world leaders must, now more than ever, illuminate a thoughtful path forward, one reliant on science and evidence-based reasoning. Indeed, many have. One leader goes further still. Trusted by her people to navigate this outbreak’s murky waters, without inciting or succumbing to a pandemic of the mind, one politician is less a commander in chief and more a scientist in chief: Angela Merkel.

For weeks now, Germany’s leader has deployed her characteristic rationality, coupled with an uncharacteristic sentimentality, to guide the country through what has thus far been a relatively successful battle against COVID-19. The pandemic is proving to be the crowning challenge for a politician whose leadership style has consistently been described as analytical, unemotional, and cautious. In her quest for social and economic stability during this outbreak, Merkel enjoys several advantages: a well-respected, coordinated system of scientific and medical expertise distributed across Germany; the hard-earned trust of the public; and the undeniable fact that steady and sensible leadership is suddenly back in style. With 30 years of political experience, and facing an enormous challenge that begs calm, reasoned thinking, Merkel is at peak performance modeling the humble credibility of a scientist at work. And it seems to be paying off, both politically and scientifically…

On March 18, after the country had closed its schools, its economy, its way of life, she gave a rare televised speech that solidified her leadership.

Facing the camera from behind a desk, with both the German and European Union flags to her side, she began on an emotional note, by conceding that “our idea of normality, of public life, social togetherness—all of this is being put to the test as never before.” She emphasized the importance of democracy and of making transparent political decisions and she insisted that any information she shared about the pandemic was based on thorough research. Then, in an astonishing statement for a German leader, one she “must have considered endlessly,” Kornelius told me, she made reference to her country’s darkest hour. “Since the Second World War,” Merkel said, “there has not been a challenge for our country in which action in a spirit of solidarity on our part was so important.”

What stood out from the address was not so much Merkel’s medical advice, but her unusually direct appeal to the notion of social togetherness and to her own limitations as an individual and as a leader (“I firmly believe that we will pass this test if all citizens genuinely see this as their task”). Her rational assurances and her emotional appeal were crucial at a time of rising panic. While the mood isn’t quite so dark here anymore—thanks to a variety of factors, Germany appears to have dealt with the outbreak better than many other countries—Germans largely continue to heed the chancellor’s detailed directives. The number of people infected by the coronavirus has increased, as it has throughout the world. But unlike in Italy, where more than 22,000 have lost their life to COVID-19, or in the United States, where the death toll has surpassed that figure and continues to rise rapidly, total deaths in Germany have been inching up from 4,000. To put this in perspective, more than twice as many New Yorkers have lost their life to the coronavirus as have individuals in all of Germany to date.

While country-level comparative data may be somewhat unreliable, and the numbers can certainly take a turn for the worse in Germany as anywhere else, experts cite a number of possible factors for the country’s relatively low number of deaths: The average age of coronavirus patients has been lower here than elsewhere, which limits the risk; the number of people tested for the virus is higher than in other countries, and cases are for the most part carefully tracked; and the public health-care system has been efficient enough to ramp up the number of available intensive-care units to meet potential demand.

Imagine that: a leader who is rational and calm. A leader who believes in science and evidence. A leader who appeals to social solidarity in the face of a national crisis. A nation prepared to act on behalf of the public interest. No grandstanding. No vainglorious or egotistical rants.