Shoppers panic-buying as coronavirus spreads to 10 of 16 German states

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
German chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to shake hands at a reception in Stralsund due to risk of infection. (Stefan Sauer/Picture alliance via Getty Images)

The number of coronavirus cases in Europe’s largest economy surpassed 135 on Monday, with cases reported in 10 of Germany’s 16 states. North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s most populous state, is the worst-hit with over 70 confirmed cases.

Coronavirus has now reached the capital Berlin, with authorities reporting that a young man admitted to the Charité hospital on Sunday had tested positive. He had previously been in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

German citizens have started panic buying supplies of disinfectants, tinned foods, and toilet paper. Many pharmacies across Germany have run out of hand-sanitizers and supermarket shelves have been cleared of supplies.

"The pharmacies in North Rhine-Westphalia sold as much disinfectant last week as they normally did in two years," Thomas Preis, head of the North Rhine-Westphalian Pharmacists' Association told Rheinische Post newspaper.

Read more: European stocks surge as central banks pledge to tackle coronavirus

Finance minister Olaf Scholz told Die Welt newspaper that the government would consider buoying up the German economy, which is heavily reliant on exports. "If the situation calls for it, we have the means to launch a fiscal stimulus package," Scholz said.

The country’s interior minister Horst Seehofer said on Sunday that he does not expect a vaccine against coronavirus to be available before the end of the year. He said the scenario where Germany would seal off regions or towns “would be a last resort." 

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases far exceed the UK, where 35 people have tested positive. Meanwhile, Italy, the epicentre of the virus in Europe, saw a surge in the number of cases on Sunday to 1,694, with 34 deaths, as the economy braces for a meltdown.

Lufthansa (LHA.DE) said on Friday that it plans to cut the number of short-and-medium haul flights by about 25% and ground 23 long-haul planes in the coming weeks due to the “accelerated spread” of the coronavirus. It is also extending its flight ban to China to the end of April.

Read more: Geneva Motor Show cancelled as coronavirus pushes Swiss to ban large events

The airline which is due to report earnings on 19 March, said it was currently impossible to assess the financial impact of the virus on its business at this stage. Its share price tumbled by about 20% in Frankfurt last week.

Berlin announced on Friday that this week’s International Tourism Fair was cancelled. The world’s largest tourism fair, which was due to begin today, attracts well over 100,000 visitors and 10,000 exhibitors. 

Watch the latest videos from Yahoo Finance UK