Germany eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions after fattening the curve

Germany has reopened small shops, car dealerships and bicycle stores, in a tentative easing of the coronavirus lockdown imposed nearly a month ago.

The country has flattened the curve of new infections and last week said it had got the spread under control. But social distancing remains in force.

In Saxony it is mandatory for people to wear face masks in public – and that is strongly recommended elsewhere.

The only students back in school are those sitting leaving exams.

Germany’s mortality rate from Covid-19 is significantly lower than for many of its European neighbours. Efficient, large-scale testing by diagnostic labs, and tracing of carriers, is seen as a major factor in that.

The country on Monday recorded 1,775 new cases for the past day, while the number of deaths linked to Covid-19 rose by 110 to 4,404, according to official figures.

What is happening in Germany?

There are significant regional differences in how Germany’s 16 states are implementing the partial relaxation of the lockdown.

For instance, the densely populated state of North Rhine-Westphalia has reopened large shops as well as small. Elsewhere only those with an area of less than 800sq m (8,611sq ft) are allowed to start operating again.

The government imposed the lockdown on 22 March, shutting schools and banning gatherings of more than two people outdoors. Germany’s hotels, restaurants and cafes are to remain shut, as are sports and leisure facilities.

For most German businesses, the lockdown will remain in place until at least 3 May, the government says. Other school pupils will also begin to return to classes after that.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged her Christian Democrat (CDU) colleagues to refrain from discussing further relaxation of the lockdown, German media report.

She warned that such talk could undermine social distancing and fuel a new surge of coronavirus cases, harming Germany’s so far successful efforts to fight the virus.