BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced further moves Wednesday to ease lockdown restrictions, shifting more responsibility to the country’s 16 federal states.
Social distancing — of at least 1.5 metres — will continue until June 5, but people will be allowed to meet in public with those from “one other household,” Merkel said. All shops are allowed to reopen, with a focus on hygiene and controlled access, avoiding queuing.
Schools will continue to ease back to some normality, with all pupils expected to be back in class before the summer holidays.
Germany’s football season is scheduled to resume “from the second half of May,” Merkel said, with the top two professional leagues playing behind closed doors.
“We have the very first phase of the pandemic behind us, but … we have a long struggle with the virus ahead of us,” Merkel said after a conference call with the 16 state leaders.
“This will be a huge challenge,” the chancellor added, saying everyone “needs to remain careful.” Merkel stressed it was important “to continue taking snapshots” and to regularly re-evaluate the situation.
Under the latest plan, Germany’s federal states will take on more responsibility for deciding on further relaxation of restrictions — for example on reopening bars, clubs, gyms, amusement parks and brothels — but must also react immediately if infection rates increase.
“The federal states will take on a very, very huge responsibility,” said Peter Tschentscher, the mayor of Hamburg, adding this will lead to measures “being interpreted very differently” from region to region.
Health Minister Jens Spahn told German broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday morning he would not favor a “patchwork quilt solution” across Germany.
“We open again, not with dismay, but with caution instead,” Bavaria’s State Premier Markus Söder said.