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German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo by John MacDougall/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The German government is banning public gatherings of more than two people to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, stopping just short of confining people to their homes Bloomberg reports.

Driving the news: Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine after coming in contact with a doctor who tested positive for the virus.

Why it matters: Countries across Europe, which has become the epicenter of the pandemic, have imposed stringent social distancing measures in an effort to stop the coronavirus from spreading as it has in Italy, where more than 4,800 people have died. Merkel has thus far opposed a full lockdown.

  • Families and people who live together will be exempt from the rule, which will be enforced by German police. The agreement was struck after a meeting between Merkel, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the leaders of the 16 German states. 
  • The virus has infected almost 24,000 people in Germany and has claimed at least 92 lives, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The big picture: Like other countries around the world, Germany is adopting policies to abate the economic damage caused by the outbreak.

  • The government is on track to adopt fiscal measures worth up to €500 billion ($538 billion) to support its economy, which is Europe's largest, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • Strict measures on public gatherings could exacerbate the economic damage caused by the virus but are necessary to prevent new infections.

Go deeper

Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The rise of vaccine passports

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Vaccine passports were touted early in the pandemic as an important piece of the plan to get people back to normal life. Now they’re becoming a reality.

Driving the news: CLEAR, the secure digital identity app that you see in airports around the world, and CommonPass, a health app that lets users securely access vaccination records and COVID test results, have joined forces.

"Vaccine tourism" stretches states' supplies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans who are highly motivated to get vaccinated are traveling across state lines after hearing about larger vaccine supplies or loopholes in sign-up systems.

Why it matters: "Vaccine tourism" raises ethical and legal questions, and could worsen the racial socioeconomic and racial inequalities of the pandemic.