Germany extends COVID-19 restrictions, but announces relaxation of some measures

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) announced initial steps to easing the country's COVID-19 restrictions.

People in Germany will have to live with the strict contact restrictions until at least 3 May. This was agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the 16 state premiers in Berlin on Wednesday (15 April). However, the German government also announced its initial plans to ease the restrictions. EURACTIV Germany reports.

According to the latest German government plans, schools are to be “gradually” reopened from 4 May, and shops up to 800 square metres in area from 20 April, provided they follow proper sanitation measures and have plans to avoid long queues.

The decision of Germany’s Federal Government and the Länder provides for the schools to be opened first for graduating classes. School operations would then be expanded step by step.

In the fight against the spread of the virus, only a “fragile interim success” has been achieved so far, Merkel said. She had agreed with the heads of state that “there must be no false rush now.”

She added that the relaxation of protective measures must be continued “with extreme caution.” “We must safeguard the successes we have achieved,” she explained to reporters.

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The German “miracle”

Merkel called it a “miracle” that the states of a federal republic coordinate so closely. Today’s decisions were only “minimum requirements.” The states were free to go further. Markus Söder (CSU) has already stated that Bavaria will open schools later and set the maximum size for shops allowed to open at less than 800 square metres.

The top group could not agree on a general obligation to wear masks. However, they made an urgent recommendation to wear “everyday masks” in public transport and when shopping.

On 30 April, Merkel and the heads of the states will discuss how to proceed after the 3 May deadline.

Coordinated approach

At EU level, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for coordinated action by member states to contain coronavirus at a press conference on Wednesday (15 April).

The Commission wants to provide a framework, even if it “cannot formulate measures that are applied in all countries”, said von der Leyen.

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Barley: Member states delay EU recommendations

The European Commission had already drawn up such a plan last week. However, European Parliament Vice-President Katarina Barley told the press today that at the request of the member states, the EU recommendations would not be published before Easter. Since then, many countries have presented their own relaxation timetables.

According to von der Leyen, the measures should only be eased if, on the one hand, the spread of the virus is demonstrably declining over a certain period of time and, on the other, if there is sufficient capacity in the health system and surveillance.

This is largely in line with the criteria Chancellor Merkel mentioned today. However, she also emphasized a shrinking reproductive factor as an important indicator.

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