BERLIN — Germany will further ease its lockdown by allowing religious services and visits to museums, playgrounds, exhibitions and zoos — but only subject to strict safety measures, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.
Bigger decisions on lifting the lockdown will not be made before next week, Merkel said at a press briefing following a three-hour videoconference with premiers of the country’s 16 regional states.
By May 6, the federal government wants to have a broader plan drawn up for reopening all schools, daycare centres, resuming sporting activities and lifting other lockdown measures.
Merkel said she was aware of the “huge challenge” posed for everyone by the coronavirus — a challenge for which “we have no template for.”
The chancellor stressed she wanted to find a good solution to the “profound economic challenges” but said decisions needed to be made “step by step” and “today’s talks were an interim step.”
“If there is something I do not know, then caution is the best policy,” Merkel said, adding it was key not to “relapse into a more difficult phase” with a higher infection rate.
As of Thursday evening, Germany had 162,123 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 6,518 deaths. Health Minister Jens Spahn said Wednesday that more than 120,000 people had recovered from the infection.
Merkel said she wanted “one strategy and one goal for all of Germany” but, she noted, “we are a federal country and there will be regional differences.”
By law, Germany’s regional states may make their own decisions on many lockdown measures, and some have taken a stricter approach than others.
Merkel said she and the state premiers had agreed to reopen playgrounds, which have been closed for eight weeks, but “with conditions.”
She said social distancing measures would have to remain in place, such as people keeping 1.5 meters apart and avoiding crowds, as outlined when Germany first decided on some lockdown easing earlier this month.
The chancellor also said that discussing “travel plans across Europe” for the holiday period was “not on the agenda” yet, neither at national nor European level.
The chancellor praised Germans for their cooperation, but also urged them “to remain disciplined.”