Bavaria unveils detailed plan out of lockdown as coronavirus cases drop
Germany's biggest state has announced a plan to reopen more public life, after a shutdown to halt transmission of the novel coronavirus.
After weeks of enforced closure, restaurants and hotels in Bavaria will be allowed to reopen gradually later this month, state premier Markus Söder said at a press conference on Tuesday May 5th.
As part of the "Bavarian Plan for Corona", outdoor areas of restaurants will be open on May 18th and indoor dining will be allowed from May 25th. Hotels will be allowed to open from May 30th, in time for the Pentecost holiday long weekend.
"The time has come for a cautious reopening," said Söder.
From this Wednesday May 6th onwards, people in Bavaria will be allowed to visit a person outside their own household (they are currently allowed to meet another person in public) and residents will also be able to visit close family members.
Meanwhile, shops with a sales area larger than 800 square metres will be allowed to reopen from Monday May 11th.
From this weekend, visits can be made again to old people's homes, subject to hygiene regulations.
It comes as pressure grows on Chancellor Angela Merkel to ease stay-at-home measures in Germany that have sunk the economy into a deep recession.
- How Germany's states are pushing to relax coronavirus lockdown measures
- Merkel warns Germans to 'remain disciplined' despite easing coronavirus measures
Schools and Kitas to open slowly
From Wednesday, playgrounds in Bavaria will also open again. At the press conference in Munich, state premier Söder said that it was important to weigh up the risks involved in opening childcare facilities.
As of next Monday, therefore, only certain childcare facilities will be allowed to reopen in Bavaria, including outdoor kindergartens (Waldkindergärten) and Kitas with up to five children.
Schools in Bavaria are to reopen step by step.
Markus Söder on Tuesday May 5th. Photo: DPA
It is hoped that all pupils will return to the classroom in some form in mid-June.
In future, pupils at Bavarian schools will have to wear masks – but only outside classes, not while in the classroom.
'The Bavarian way was right'
"The success is clear, the Bavarian way was the right one," said Söder, who had implemented lockdown rules quickly. The southern state, which has been hit hardest in the epidemic, also had the strictest coronavirus measures.
Now the plan is to gradually relax rules, "later than others", said Söder, signalling that the rest of Germany will move more quickly.
Authorities said decisions were being made according to the coronavirus situation in Bavaria.
Söder said as on Tuesday May 5th around 6,400 people in the state currently have coronavirus. Compared to last week alone, the number of people infected has halved.
State economics minister Hubert Aiwanger of the Free Voters, called the reopening of trade a "big step towards normality".
In this context he also mentioned the Bavarian beer garden culture, which could soon be celebrated again. He appealed to local authorities to temporarily grant restaurateurs more space outside to compensate for lack of space inside.
Germany easing lockdown
While shops have reopened over the last weeks, critics have complained that the pace of easing was too slow with many sectors still locked down across the Bundesrepublik.
On the eve of a key meeting between Merkel and leaders of Germany's 16 states, several regions have preempted the talks by announcing plans to relax the curbs.
Eastern state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will allow restaurants to reopen from Saturday and hotels to follow from May 18th.
Another eastern state Saxony-Anhalt has meanwhile eased restrictions on keeping gatherings in public to two people unless they are from the same household.
On Saturday May 2nd, the state's regional government decided to allow up to five people to gather outside.
Meanwhile Lower Saxony has drawn up a plan for lockdown easing and wants to reopen swimming pools.
Germany has been hailed for its success so far in preventing its health services from being overwhelmed.
Authorities began relaxing restrictions after the infection rate fell under 1.0 – meaning each person is infecting less than one other – as opposed to each infecting up to five or six people in March.