By Stefan J. Bos
Health Minister Spahn offered some hope for Europe's largest economy. He said the coronavirus outbreak was under thanks to confinement measures imposed after an early surge in cases. "We can say the measures were successful," he told reporters. He added that "The infection numbers have sunk significantly, especially the relative day-by-day increase."
The government says that smaller shops in Germany are due to reopen from Monday, with some pupils set to return to school on May 4. But other restrictions will remain, including bans on gatherings of more than two people in public and on significant public events.
In Germany, nearly 3,900 people are known to have died of the new coronavirus disease Covid-19. That is fewer than in Italy, Spain or France.
The comments by the German minister offered some hope for nations such as Italy. It recorded more than 21,000 deaths from the virus, the highest toll in Europe.
That has led to tensions between Italy and the European Union, of which it is a member. The president of the EU's executive European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has apologized for the block's slow response. "Yes, it is true that no one was really ready for this," she explained to the European Parliament this week.
"It is also true that too many were not there on time when Italy a needed a helping hand at the very beginning. And yes, for that, it is right that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology," she added. But the EU leader cautioned: "Saying sorry, only counts for something if it changes behavior. The truth is that it did not take long before everyone realized that we must protect each other to protect ourselves."
Italy hopes these words will translate into concrete financial aid. But several EU nations struggle to find enough money to deal with their coronavirus pandemic.
The Parliament of France, for instance, approved an emergency budget overnight, including the government's 110 billion euro plan to save the economy from virus-related collapse.
The approval followed French President Emmanuel Macron questioning China's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Macron told the Financial Times newspaper it was in his words "naive" to suggest that China, where the virus originated from, had dealt better with the crisis. He added that things "happened that we don't know about."
But his comments came while the French navy investigated how the coronavirus infected more than 1,000 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. The outbreak led to growing pressure on French government officials to explain how it could have happened.
The incident underscored how many people have been impacted by the pandemic in Europe, where several countries now slowly want to end lockdowns that have affected millions of people.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says more than 95 percent of those who have died of coronavirus in Europe have been over 60.
But the WHO also warned that young people should not be complacent. Around the world, some 155,000 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported.