German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the coronavirus crisis “more unusual” than the banking crisis since the evolving health challenge has not been answered by scientists and medicines. After meeting the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, Merkel reiterated that the public finances were secondary for the government at the time of a health crisis like coronavirus pandemic.
While Germany has a self-imposed policy of not taking a new debt, Mekel said that the debt brake rule provides for exceptions in extraordinary situations. The German Chancellor added that budget balance is not the government’s primary concern right now. She said that the first task is to save people’s lives and, secondly, to keep economic activity going.
Merkel had earlier said that Berlin is open to scrapping the self-imposed zero-deficit rule to fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak. She did not rule out the suspension of the zero-deficit rule targeted at fiscal prudence and said that the administration will prioritise the virus crisis.
Speaking at a news conference on March 11, Merkel said that Germany is focussed on slowing the spread of the virus since there is no known cure of the deadly infection. She also warned that up to 70 per cent of the country’s population is vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Europe has been witnessing a dramatic rise in the number of coronavirus cases with Italy being the worst-hit. Italy has reported over 15,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 1,000 people have died due to the global pandemic.
On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus as pandemic which has forced governments to take drastic measures to contain the disease. Speaking at a press briefing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern about alarming levels of spread and severity and alarming levels of inaction.
“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” said Ghebreyesus.