German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday proposed the creation of a 500 billion euro ($543 billion) European Union (EU) recovery fund for the financial recuperation of the bloc in the wake of the economic damage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint video conference with Macron, Merkel said the proposal was an initial response to the economic crisis resulting from the measures adopted across the continent to confront the spread of the virus.

Merkel acknowledged that some EU nations had been more affected by the virus than others.

Merkel and Macron said the funds would have to be secured through existing financial mechanisms in the EU.

Speaking after her conference with Macron, Merkel said, “It’s not going to be a normal season, it’ll be one under the sign of the pandemic.”

On Saturday, thousand of people gathered in numerous German cities to protest against restrictive measures to fight COVID-19, prompting counter-demonstrators who voiced their disapproval of conspiracy theories.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s Foreign Minister, said Merkel’s government hoped to move from the general advice against all foreign travel, which has been in place since mid-March, to a new set of guidelines that would be tailored for different countries.

The city had allowed a maximum of 1,000 people, under the condition of observing the minimum distance of 1.5 meters and a time limit of two hours, according to the German Press Agency (DPA).

Earlier this month, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that COVID-19 restrictions in the country would be eased while minimum social distance and hygiene rules would continue to apply.

Merkel confirmed an “emergency mechanism” which would be triggered if more than 50 new infections over seven days per 100,000 inhabitants were locally detected in a certain region.

Regarding shops, the politicians said all could reopen but requirements “for hygiene, managing entry and avoiding queues forming” would be imposed.

A minimum distance of 1.5 metres and obligatory face masks in certain places such as public transport would continue to exist, and the contact restrictions in Germany would remain in force until June 5.

There were 617 new cases in the 24 hours through Monday morning, bringing the total to 176,369 according to data from Johns Hopkins University. This compares to 519 new cases reported on Sunday.