'We are still in the third wave': German Health Minister urges caution in reopening after shutdown
German states are putting together their plans for reopening after around six months of an almost complete shutdown of public life. But there are calls to do it gradually.
Coronavirus infections are dropping significantly in many parts of Germany. But Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged for states not to rush when relaxing restrictions.
Spahn said the reopening of public life - such as for restaurants, museums and gyms, must happen "step by step".
He also called for caution when it comes to easing Covid rules for vaccinated people and those who've recovered from the virus.
"We have reason for a lot of confidence and perspective - the number of vaccinations is increasing, we can make relaxations," the CDU politician told broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday.
"But we are also still in the third wave," he added. The numbers are going down, but they are not yet low enough, he said - and intensive care units are still heavily burdened. "Confidence combined with prudence and caution" is needed right now, Spahn said.
Germany has been in some form of virus shutdown since November, with numbers of new infections remaining consistently high amid an initially sluggish vaccination campaign.
But the campaign has since picked up pace, with more than a million jabs issued in one day last week, and new infection numbers have started to come down gradually.
Spahn warned that the experiences of other countries around the world show that "if you open up too quickly, it (the virus) can catch up with you very quickly".
"We are doing this step by step with a sense of proportion, but also with an understanding that fundamental rights and freedoms are at stake here," he said.
Under national measures introduced in April, areas with an incidence rate of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days must introduce overnight curfews and people may only meet with one other person from another household during the day.
But as regions manage to get the number of cases below this threshold, they can get rid of these rules and begin to open facilities.
States, including Berlin and Bavaria, are putting plans together on how they will reopen.
- Berlin plans restaurant openings as Covid infections fall
- Bavaria plans to open for tourists on May 21st
Spahn urged states to concentrate on outdoor areas in the first step, such as allowing outdoor dining in restaurants.
On Wednesday, the Robert Koch Institute logged 18,034 coronavirus cases within 24 hours and 285 deaths. There have been a total of around 3.5 million reported infections since the start of the pandemic, although numbers are expected to be much higher as many cases go unreported.
Germany has in total seen around 83,870 reported deaths connected to Covid-19.
About 29.5 percent of the population has received at least one vaccination against the coronavirus, and 8.3 percent are fully inoculated.