Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that a substantial majority of the German population was likely to be infected with the coronavirus.
Citing expert estimates, Merkel said that 60% to 70% of the population could be infected. She said the reason is because people do not yet have immunity to the virus and there are so far neither vaccines nor therapies to fight it. With some 1,300 infections and two deaths, Germany’s government has recommended the cancellation of all events with more than 1,000 people, among other measures. Merkel said such measures “are giving us time” and are invaluable.
The chancellor, speaking at a news conference in Berlin a day after the 27 European Union leaders held a video conference to coordinate action with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, said Germany will do whatever is required to limit the impact of the virus on Europe’s biggest economy.
She was referring to budget spending on health measures, on top of a pledge to provide ailing companies with liquidity and extend furlough pay for workers. She said she agreed with Lagarde that the situation must be taken “very seriously.”
Merkel and her economic team are focused on providing liquidity to cash-strapped companies and haven’t seen the need for classic stimulus measures until the economic fallout of the disease becomes more clear. Yet pressure has been growing for Germany to step up efforts to support growth.
Some of the nation’s leading economists on Wednesday urged the government to become more proactive and give up its balanced-budget policy. While the economists rejected a broader stimulus package, they called for targeted measures to cushion the economic impact, such as tax cuts and better terms on tax obligations.
The Associated Press and Bloomberg contributed to this report.