Updated Mar 22, 2020 - Health

Germany bans public gatherings of more than 2 people

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

Italy quarantines 16M as northern region placed on coronavirus lockdown

Tourists on the Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy, on Friday. Photo: Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree Saturday putting much of the country's north — including Venice and Milan — on lockdown Saturday to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: Italy has the largest number of cases in Europe — 5,883 by early Sunday, per Johns Hopkins University data. At least 16 million people are now in mandatory quarantine in the Lombardy region, along with 14 provinces, the BBC notes. Among those to test positive is the head of Italy’s Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, per Bloomberg.

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Coronavirus outbreak has likely already pushed multiple countries into recession

A trader at the New York Stock Exchange on March 5. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Michael Nagle via Getty Images

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields fell to under 0.5% with the 30-year below 1% for the first time ever, oil plummeted by as much as 31%, Australia's ASX index lost 7.3% (its worst day since the financial crisis) and markets in Asia and Europe cratered.

What happened: The economic shock of the coronavirus looks set to worsen as more places around the world, including the U.S., may institute quarantine measures that would severely reduce consumer activity.

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 4,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 4,000 people in the U.S. — with over 1,000 deaths reported in New York City, per Johns Hopkins.

The state of play: President Trump said Tuesday it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

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