April 28, 2020 / 8:43 AM / a month ago

German minister eyes gastronomy rescue fund if lockdown very long

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier listens during a news conference on the economic situation amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany April 17, 2020. John MacDougall/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s gastronomy sector may need a rescue fund if the lockdown lasts longer than expected due to the coronavirus, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday.

The government has already made loans and a short-time work scheme available to the sector and leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition have agreed to reduce sales tax on meals to 7% for a year, said Altmaier.

“As Economy Minister, I am saying if, contrary to expectations, it lasts a long time until a full opening is possible, we will have to reconsider aid, then we would need something like a rescue fund for gastronomy,” he told ZDF television.

Germany has started to ease some restrictions, with some shops and factories now open, but most strict social distancing rules are still in place and Germans are required to wear protective face masks on public transport and in most shops.

The government has introduced a range of measures, including a 750 billion euro ($811.43 billion) stimulus package, to help Europe’s biggest economy weather the predicted recession and is in talks with Lufthansa about a rescue package for the airline.

Altmaier said he wanted restaurants and guest houses to open as soon as possible but that it must be safe and the priority was to ensure that the infection did not spread.

“We need solutions for this and we are working on it,” he said.

Germany has 156,337 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Tuesday and 5,913 people have died from COVID-19.

($1 = 0.9243 euros)

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Michelle Martin

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