Germany plans cautious 1st steps to restart public life

BERLIN (AP) — Germany plans to let smaller shops reopen next week after a weeks-long coronavirus shutdown and to start reopening schools in early May, but Europe’s biggest economy is keeping strict social distancing rules in place for now.

After much-anticipated talks on Wednesday with Germany’s 16 state governors, Chancellor Angela Merkel set out a plan for the first steps of a cautious restart of public life — following neighbouring Austria and Denmark and other countries in launching a slow loosening of restrictions.

New infections in Germany have slowed in recent weeks, but Merkel cautioned that the country has achieved only “a fragile intermediate success” so far and doesn’t have “much room for manoeuver”.

She said a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public and an obligation to keep at a 1.5-metre distance from others, which has been in place since March 23, will remain in place beyond on Sunday when it was previously set to expire.

Non-essential shops, which have also have been closed for nearly four weeks, will be allowed to start reopening, with hygiene precautions, if they are up to 800 square metres in area.
So will auto showrooms, bike shops and bookshops, irrespective of their size.

Merkel said the decisions apply to the period from Monday through May 3, and officials will review the situation again on April 30.