German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the first steps in undoing coronavirus lockdowns in the coming weeks, stressing, however, that the measures had only achieved a “fragile, partial success” against the pandemic.
Stores up to 800 square metres (8,600 square feet) will be allowed to reopen once they have “plans to maintain hygiene”, Merkel said on Wednesday following talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states.
The chancellor said the government recommended citizens to wear protective face masks while shopping and on public transport.
Physical distancing rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus would remain in place until at least May 3, while schools across the country would be allowed to open gradually, starting from May 4, with priority given to pupils about to take exams.
Meanwhile, a ban on large public events will be upheld until August 31 to prevent possible mass transmissions of the virus, which causes a highly infectious respiratory disease called COVID-19.
Merkel said Germans should still exercise “extreme caution” and asked them to keep to the anti-coronavirus measures imposed by the government.
Germany has 132,718 confirmed coronavirus cases to date, including 3,592 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.