The restrictions to keep people home “was successful,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin. “The infection numbers have sunk significantly, especially the relative day-by-day number. The outbreak is today again under control.”
Spahn also said that German companies will make tens of millions of masks per week from August including 10 million meeting the FFP2 protective standard and 40 million surgical masks.
“We were able to award contracts to some 50 companies which want to produce 10 million FFP2 masks and 40 million surgical masks from August,” Spahn told reporters.
But so far Germany has not aped neighbouring Austria by introducing a nationwide requirement for people to wear masks in public, issuing only a “strong recommendation”.
Defending the decision to hold off a mask requirement, Spahn said people had been “very responsible” so far.
But eastern state Saxony will be the first to impose masks on public transport and shops from Monday, regional premier Michael Kretschmer said Friday.
(article continues below)
See also on The Local:
'We'll see whether this is stable'
According to figures published by disease control agency Robert Koch Institute (RKI) late Thursday, the person-to-person infection rate has dropped to 0.7.
The infection rate is a key indicator for politicians as they calibrate Germany's gradual steps out of the lockdown that has seen schools and most businesses closed to slow the virus' spread.
“We will see whether this is stable,” said RKI president Lothar Wieler, adding that the disease was not “eradicated”, and new infections could continue to occur.
The figures justified a first easing of the lockdown with a review after two or three weeks, Merkel said, while warning that there was “little margin for error” and that “caution should be the watchword, not over-confidence”.
From Monday, shops up to 800 square metres will be allowed to reopen if they uphold hygiene rules, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.
And schools are set to begin reopening from May 4th, with priority given to pupils soon taking exams.
Meanwhile rules will remain in force preventing groups of more than two people from gathering in public, other than family groups who live together, while large public events remain banned until August 31st.
Regional leaders have made their own tweaks to the centrally-agreed rules, with Bavarian leader Markus Söder arguing to retain tough restrictions while North Rhine-Westphalia premier Armin Laschet pushes to loosen even faster.
Polls show much of the public stands behind strict infection control, but business is pushing hard for a dependable roadmap for exiting lockdown.
Some companies, like car giant Volkswagen, have already announced their own step-by-step plans for reactivating production in Germany in the coming weeks.
Preparations to reopen factories included “a comprehensive catalogue of measures to protect workers' health”, Volkswagen brand chief operating officer Ralf Brandstaetter said Wednesday.