The novel coronavirus could infect up to 58 million Germans, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday.
"60-70% of people in Germany could be infected with the coronavirus," Merkel told lawmakers from her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), according to Bild newspaper.
When the chancellor shared her estimates the room fell silent, Bild said.
Merkel also backed the cancellation of all non-essential public events, as part of an effort to fight the spread of the virus, known as COVID-19, in the country, but dismissed concerns regarding a ban on major events.
"Sports matches played in front of empty stands are not the worst thing that can happen to this country," she said.
In response to demands for state action to cushion the economic effects of the epidemic, Merkel said Germany does not need an economic stimulus plan now to counter the impact of the coronavirus but rather liquidity injections.
Germany has more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19, including two confirmed deaths.