Merkel warns Germans to ‘remain disciplined’ despite easing coronavirus measures

Merkel warns Germans to 'remain disciplined' despite easing coronavirus measures
Angela Merkel on Thursday. Photo: DPA
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday plans to relax some coronavirus restrictions on public life – but others will be extended.

Following a conference with state leaders on Thursday April 30th, Merkel said religious services would be allowed to resume in Germany but with strict social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Museums, zoos, memorials, galleries and botanic gardens have also been given the green light to reopen. Playgrounds will also be allowed to reopen.

There may be some differences across states on the timetable for the easing of these restrictions.

READ ALSO: Germany poised to reopen religious buildings, museums and playgrounds

However, social distancing, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people (excluding families and households) in public and a distance of 1.5 metres between people, will continue in Germany up to and including at least May 10th.

Despite some media speculation, a decision to allow Germany's Bundesliga football competition to start up again will not be made until May 6th.  

It came after the constitutional court ruled a ban on religious services amounted to “a serious infringement of religious freedom”.

“Caution remains the order of the day,” said Merkel, adding that it was “absolutely important” for people in Germany to “remain disciplined”.

“If the curve of infections becomes steeper again, the federal and state governments must be prepared to react,” said Merkel. She said that Thursday's discussions were only an “intermediate step”, and that a “further-reaching package” on Germany's path out of lockdown would be discussed on May 6th.

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“It's about tracing the chains of infection,” Merkel said, highlighting the importance of testing and tracing coronavirus infections.

“Every time the restrictions are relaxed, people move around more,” she said. “Therefore, we must constantly keep an eye on the effects of the relaxation. We have to stay disciplined, keep a safe distance, and follow hygiene measures.”

As of Thursday, there were over 161,980 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, according to figures from John Hopkins University. which reports a slightly higher number of figures than the RKI due to calculating data in real time throughout the day.

Of the confirmed cases there have been around 6,500 deaths and 123,500 people are reported to have recovered.
 
The reproduction rate has dropped below the critical value of 1 to 0.76, meaning 10 people with coronavirus infect on average 7.5 others. Ministers and virologists have hammered home the importance of squeezing the number below 1.0.

'Common strategy'

Merkel thanked the public for adhering to the restrictions so far.

She added that authorities will be watching the infection figures to see the effects, if any, of face masks, which are now compulsory across Germany on public transport and in shops.

Germany already announced that major gatherings would be banned across the country until August 31st. Merkel said Thursday that these included folk festivals, major sporting events with spectators, concerts, festivals or fairground events.

Merkel stressed that a coordinated strategy was being pursued by the federal and state governments in the coronavirus crisis. It is “in the interest of the people that there is a common strategy and a goal in Germany”, Merkel said.

The reopening of schools and kindergartens as well as loosening up restrictions for sports will not be discussed until the next round of talks on May 6th, she said.

Proposals are also to be drawn up by May 6th on how the gradual opening of catering and tourism facilities can take place in Germany.

Meanwhile, when asked about when people in Germany would be able to travel to other countries on holiday, Merkel said it was still too early to say.


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