Germany announces biggest aid package since WW2

Berlin, March 24 (IANS) Germany has approved a massive and unprecedented financial aid package of 156 billion euro ($166.5 bn), the largest in the country since the Second World War, to offset the socio-economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The stimulus package is designed to ease the burden on hospitals and clinics and supply financial aid to save jobs and companies that have been affected by the pandemic, reports Efe news.

“The corona pandemic is changing our whole lives,” said Olaf Scholz, Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor, said on Monday while explaining why the government was taking “the necessary and correct” step of unveiling such an enormous economic aid package.

“We will do everything we can to prevent this crisis from endangering the health care of our citizens or the economic processes in this country.”

German authorities fear a severe recession due to the crisis, with the decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expected to be “at least as high” as in 2008/2009, Minister of Economy Peter Altmeier warned while announcing a bailout fund of up to 600 billion euros for larger companies.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, meanwhile, said that hospitals and clinics requiring additional staff, beds and equipment would receive financial support.

“If you need more beds, if you need more staff and equipment to treat coronavirus patients, you will be compensated financially,” Spahn said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the cabinet meeting from her home office, where she has been in quarantine since Sunday after coming into contact with a doctor who tested positive for coronavirus.

“She is simply in home office, as are many other people who have had to place themselves in self-isolation at home,” Scholz told reporters.

“She is active: we had the cabinet meeting together this morning.”

The Minister added that he would speak in Merkel's stead in the Bundestag lower house of parliament session on Wednesday.

Despite Merkel being forced into preventative isolation, Germany is “seeing signs that the exponential growth curve is flattening off slightly”, said Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, on Monday, although he cautioned that a fuller picture would only be available from Wednesday.

Wieler said he was optimistic that social distancing measures taken last week and over the weekend, including the closure of schools and bans on all public gatherings, had helped to limit the virus's spread.

Germany has recorded 115 deaths out of more than 26,220 cases of the coronavirus, making it the fifth-worst affected country by number of infections, behind Spain (over 35,156), the US (46,371), China (81,545), where the virus originated, and Italy, which is now the epicentre of the pandemic with 63,927 cases and 6,077 deaths on Monday, according to John Hopkins University.

The COVID-19 disease has killed 16,557 people worldwide out of 381,499 confirmed cases. A total of 101,794 people have recovered.



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