KEY POINTS

  • Hesse finance minister Thomas Schaefer was found dead Saturday
  • Observations and witness reports strongly suggest the death to be a suicide
  • Schaefer was reportedly 'deeply worried' over the financial implications of the pandemic

The state finance minister of Germany's Hesse region was found dead in an apparent suicide. The 54-year-old was "deeply worried" about how to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thomas Schaefer was found dead Saturday, March 28, near a railway track at Hochheim, near Frankfurt. According to authorities, observations of the scene as well as witness reports strongly suggest that Schaefer took his own life, leaving behind his wife and two kids. 

State governor Volker Bouffier linked Schaefer’s death to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the minister had been particularly worried about the financial fallout as a result of the pandemic, particularly in terms of fulfilling the public’s need for financial help.

"I have to assume that these worries overwhelmed him," Bouffier said. "He apparently couldn't find a way out. He was in despair and left us."

Recently, the German government made plans to provide aid packages to help ease the effects of having to essentially shut down public life in an attempt to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. Germany banned all social gatherings of more than two people except for families living in the same house. Hesse, along with Bavaria, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hamburg, and Lower Saxony were also placed under lockdown.

"It's precisely during this difficult time that we would have needed someone like him," Bouffier said. 

A recent report suggested that a partial economic shutdown of Germany could cost between 7.25% and 20.6% of gross domestic product, assuming that the shutdown would last from one to three months. 

"We don't need to speculate; it's clear there will be a negative economic impact. Anyone could say that just by looking at the empty high streets," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told journalists in Berlin last week.

Economy minister Peter Altmeier also added that the economic effects of the pandemic could be "at least as large" as the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which is touted as the worst crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. 

So far, Germany has reported over 62,000 confirmed coronavirus cases including 541 deaths. Overall, Germany has relatively fewer coronavirus deaths compared to other countries. In fact, its death rate is reportedly at 0.4% compared to other hard-hit countries, like Italy with 9.5% and France with 4.3%.

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate almost empty as Germany tightens measures over coronavirus spread Berlin's Brandenburg Gate almost empty as Germany tightens measures over coronavirus spread Photo: AFPTV / Raphaelle LOGEROT