The coronavirus pandemic presents the EU with its biggest ever test, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday ahead of crunch talks between the bloc’s finance ministers on how to respond to the crisis.
“Europe, the EU, is facing its biggest test since its foundation,” she said at a press conference. “Everyone is equally affected so it must be in everyone’s interest … that Europe should emerge strongly from this test.”
EU finance ministers will meet Tuesday to try and come up with a plan to respond to the economic damage caused by the crisis. While Merkel has refused to back so-called corona bonds, a proposed common debt instrument to help finance the response to the pandemic, she said stimulus would be needed. “Germany is only doing well if Europe is doing well,” she added.
Regarding Germany’s anti-virus measures, set to be in place until at least April 19, Merkel declined to give a fixed date for the phasing out of restrictions. Neighboring Austria announced earlier Monday that it would gradually ease restrictions after Easter.
The German government announced one new measure, however: All returning travelers will have to enter self-isolation for two weeks on arrival. Although Germany has banned non-essential travel, residents and citizens may still return from abroad.
On efforts to build capacity for medical supplies, Merkel said that domestic production, both within Germany and in the EU, was key. “It’s important that we learn from this pandemic that we need a certain sovereignty here or at least a pillar of domestic production,” she said.
The German health ministry has already offered domestic companies new framework contracts for fast production of personal protective equipment (PPE), a government spokesperson said Monday. The government told companies that such products would be in demand until at least 2021.
As of Monday, Germany had 95,391 confirmed cases and 1,434 deaths.