Germany has approved a massive and unprecedented financial aid package of 156 billion euro ($166.5 bn), the largest in the country since the Second World War, to offset the socio-economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The stimulus package is designed to ease the burden on hospitals and clinics and supply financial aid to save jobs and companies that have been affected by the pandemic, Efe news reported.

Earlier on Monday, Olaf Scholz, Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor said, “The corona pandemic is changing our whole lives”, while explaining why the government was taking “the necessary and correct” step of unveiling such an enormous economic aid package.

“We will do everything we can to prevent this crisis from endangering the health care of our citizens or the economic processes in this country.”

Meanwhile, according to the German Health Minister Jens Spah, hospitals and clinics requiring additional staff, beds and equipment would receive financial support.

“If you need more beds, if you need more staff and equipment to treat coronavirus patients, you will be compensated financially,” Spahn said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was on Sunday in quarantine after meeting a doctor who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The development comes as Germany further tightens rules on public gatherings and plots a taboo-breaking package of support for Europe’s top economy.

News of Merkel’s potential exposure to the virus came minutes after she announced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and further infection control measures.

Gatherings of more than two people will be banned in Germany, Merkel said on Sunday, as Europe’s biggest economy toughened restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Germany has already closed down schools, non-essential shops and urged people not to gather in groups but has not yet imposed blanket limits on group gatherings.

Germany has recorded 115 deaths out of more than 26,220 cases of the coronavirus, making it the fifth-worst affected country by number of infections, behind Spain (over 35,156), the US (46,371), China (81,545), where the virus originated, and Italy, which is now the epicentre of the pandemic with 63,927 cases and 6,077 deaths on Monday, according to John Hopkins University.

The COVID-19 disease has killed 16,557 people worldwide out of 381,499 confirmed cases. A total of 101,794 people have recovered.

Merkel appealed to citizens’ “reason and empathy” in implementing the contact restrictions, saying she had been “very moved” by how closely people had stuck to less stringent measures implemented in recent days.

Last week, Merkel announced an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to battle the spread of the deadly virus.