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Germany announces economic measures to stall 'corona-crisis'

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Berlin (AFP)

Germany announced measures to boost its sputtering economy in the face of the fast-spreading coronavirus on Monday, while also calling for the cancellation of large events.

As the number of cases in Germany pushed beyond 900, Health Minister Jens Spahn said gatherings of more than 1,000 people should be scrapped.

"After many discussions with those responsible, I emphatically encourage the cancellation of events with more than 1,000 participants until further notice," he wrote on Twitter.

Acknowledging the financial hit to organisers of such events in Europe's biggest economy, Spahn said the government would help cushion the blow.

But he also appealed to individuals to "consider what is so important in your daily life that you cannot miss in the next two to three months -- be it a visit to the club, a birthday party among family members or an association meeting."

Germany has over the last week scrapped several huge fairs, including Berlin's travel fest ITB, industrial show Hannover Messe and the Leipzig book fair.

But Spahn's latest recommendation could lead to the postponement of many more events, including Bundesliga football matches and rock concerts.

German Football League chief Christian Seifert warned however that "the season must end by mid-May" in order for promotion and relegation clubs to be determined and to give participants in international competitions time to prepare.

- 'Comprehensive' help -

With measures taken to halt the virus hitting the economy hard, leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition agreed on new aid measures after late-night talks.

The coalition "is taking action in the corona-crisis. Besides medical protection measures, we have agreed on a big aid package for the German economy," tweeted Markus Soeder, leader of Merkel's Bavarian allies CSU, calling the package "comprehensive".

Rules governing compensation for workers forced to cut working hours because of the crisis will be eased, said the government in a statement after late-night talks.

The relaxed criteria will apply from April and will be valid up to the end of the year.

Berlin also pledged to draw up proposals on offering liquidity support for companies hardest hit by the impact of the outbreak.

Talks with key representatives of the German economy as well as trade unions will be held shortly on the proposals.

Separately, the government said it will also boost investments by 3.1 billion euros per year between 2021 and 2024.

The total hike in investments totalling 12.4 billion euros will be entirely funded by 2019's budget surplus.

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