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Coronavirus: Merkel announces sweeping shutdown in Germany

Jill Petzinger
Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks to a press statement prior to meeting with economic and labor unions leaders at the Chancellery on March 13, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Hayoung Jeon/ Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a televised press conference on Monday (16 March) evening that drastic measures needed to be put in place to try and slow down the spread of coronavirus in Germany.

Merkel laid out a list of all the types of businesses, venues, events, and gatherings that would be forbidden in all of Germany’s 16 states, after state leaders and the federal government met today to agree on a unified attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

“These are measures that have never been taken in our country” said Merkel, adding that the scale of the shutdown “is not what we want to do, but what scientists say [we should do].”

Merkel said that all non-essential retail outlets will be closed nationwide. Schools, playgrounds, bars, clubs, cultural venues, cinemas, sports venues, zoos and brothels will be closed. All get-togethers are banned too, including religious gatherings in churches, mosques, and synagogues.

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Businesses that will be allowed to stay open include supermarkets, beverage shops, chemists, petrol stations, banks, post offices, laundromats and dry cleaners, newsagents and pet-food stores. Hairdressers, a job that involves human contact, also have the right to stay open.

Restaurants will be permitted to open only between the hours of 6am and 6pm, but will have to keep a certain distance between tables.

"We are dealing with something unique here," Merkel said. "The more every individual sticks to these restrictions, the faster we can get through this phase." She also said that domestic and foreign holiday trips must stop.

Germany, which as of Monday morning, had 4,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and nine deaths, also today closed its borders with France, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Austria for all traffic apart from commuters and goods vehicles. Poland and the Czech Republic had already shut their borders to Germany.

The sweeping closures are causing enormous concern for the vast numbers of people now faced with being suspended indefinitely from their jobs, and small, independent businesses that are loath to consider taking out loans they could struggle to repay.

The government announced its “bazooka” fiscal aid package last week, which it said will provide safety nets for companies, including offering them tax relief, such as deferred tax pre-payments. Economy minister Peter Altmaier said "there is no upper limit on the loan amount that [state development bank] KfW can grant.”

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