Fears over the spread of the coronavirus grew in Germany with the government calling for the cancellation of large events and preparing measures to prop up the sputtering economy.

As cases in Europe's biggest economy reached close to 850, Health Minister Jens Spahn said gatherings of more than 1,000 participants should be scrapped.

"After many discussions with those responsible, I emphatically encourage the cancellation of events with more than 1,000 participants until further notice," Jens Spahn, the government's point man on coordinating action to contain contagion, wrote on Twitter.

Acknowledging the financial blow to organisers of such events, Minister Spahn said the government will be examining ways to cushion the impact.

But he also made an appeal to individuals to "consider what is so important in your daily life that you cannot miss in the next two to three months - be it a visit to the club, a birthday party among family members or an association meeting".

Germany has over the last week scrapped several huge fairs, including Berlin's travel fest ITB, industrial show Hannover Messe and the Leipzig book fair.
 

But Mr Spahn's latest recommendation could lead to the postponement of many more events, including Bundesliga football matches and rock concerts.

German Football League chief Christian Seifert warned however that "the season must end by mid-May" as promotion and relegation clubs must be determined and to give participants in international competitions time to prepare.

With measures taken to halt the virus hitting the economy hard, leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition are due to meet today to discuss ways to cushion the blow.

Ahead of the talks, ministers have signaled that possible action could include the scrapping of a so-called "solidarity tax" for the majority of tax-payers by as early as this summer to help put more cash in consumers' pockets.

Rules governing compensation for workers forced to cut working hours because of the crisis may also be eased, and investments may be ramped up to boost the economy.