Germany facing an 'absolutely serious situation' as coronavirus cases surge past 1,000

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
From left: Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, Christian Drosten, director of the Institute for Virology at Charite Berlin hospital, and federal health minister Jens Spahn, arrive to brief media about coronavirus outbreak on 9 March, in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The German government has recommended cancelling all gatherings and events of 1,000 or more people in the wake of coronavirus outbreak as the number of cases in the country surged to 1,112 on Monday.

Health minister Jens Spahn said at a press conference in Berlin that citizens must take responsibility and precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus, for themselves and the good of society as a whole.

Spahn said that everyone must think seriously about whether it is really necessary to go to concerts, clubs and so on, and urged residents in bigger cities to cycle or walk to work to avoid public transport.

"We have to slow the outbreak so that our health system can continue to function,” Spahn said.

Cancelling large gatherings of 1,000 or more people was a “European standard” that was also being implemented in France and Switzerland, he added.

The number of confirmed cases in Germany surged to 1,112 on Monday, from 902 on Sunday: over 400 cases are in North Rhine-Westphalia.

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“We have to reckon with the fact that we are facing an epidemic,” said Christian Drosten, director of the Institute for Virology at the Charité hospital in Berlin. “It's an absolutely serious situation, and we don't have much time to prepare for it.”

Drosten said that a new study has shown that warmer spring weather, which normally heralds the end of cold-and-flu season, may not have as much of a negative effect on coronavirus as was previously thought.

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Spahn noted that coronavirus is more dangerous for people over 65 and the chronically ill. He urged citizens to be helpful towards older people — for example, by doing their shopping — and to observe the same basic hygiene precautions as during the common cold.

The German government on Sunday signed off on a €12.4bn (£11bn, $14bn) stimulus package to buoy up the economy in the next few years, and said it would financially help companies forced to halt work due to the virus.

Germany has more confirmed cases than the UK, which has 319. Italy is the worst-hit of any EU country, with 7,000 cases and over 360 deaths, and has now quarantined 16 million citizens in the northern parts of the country. 

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