Angela Merkel: The first phase of pandemic is behind us

Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to reopen all shops as part of a deal with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to ease restrictions on society.

General contact rules will continue for another month. Schools are likely to reopen gradually this term and Bundesliga football is expected to be given the green light to restart.

The states have agreed to take control of timing the reopening.

They will also have to react fast to any new surge in infections.

A limited resumption has already begun, but this would be far more widespread.

Two households will be able to meet and eat together under the easing of restrictions, according to reports from the talks.

Germany has seen fewer than 7,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic – a much lower figure than seen in other Western European countries including the UK, Italy, France and Spain.

The RKI public health institute reported 165 deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday and some 947 new infections. Significantly the rate of infection has been consistently low for some time.

Popular Bild daily newspaper announced on Wednesday that Germany was opening up again. And broadly that is what the draft deal proposes.

Shops of up to 800 sq m (8,600ft) in size have already been allowed to open. All restrictions on shops will now be lifted, although masks must be worn and social distancing maintained.

Schools have already begun opening for older children; reports say all pupils will be allowed to return to school gradually during the summer term.

During Wednesday’s talks, state leaders reportedly agreed to take responsibility for the consequences of lifting the lockdown, which came into force on March 17.

Germany, in common with other countries, is wary of a second surge in infections. If new infections rise to above 50 people in every 100,000 over a seven-day period, then in the affected areas the reopening has to be reversed, news agency DPA reports.

Restaurants, hotels and gyms will reportedly also be allowed to reopen. But as a number of the 16 states have been less affected by the crisis than others, some are more eager to ease restrictions than others.

Bavaria in the south plans to reopen restaurants on May 18 while Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north plans to do that this Saturday. -BBC

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