May 6, 2020 / 6:01 AM / a month ago

German govt and states agree on way to ease lockdown: document

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s federal government and 16 states have agreed all shops and some sports can restart under certain conditions, schools will gradually open for all pupils and states will each decide on reopening restaurants, hotels and gyms, a document showed.

Protesters attend a demonstration against the lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Berlin, Germany, May 2, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Mang

Germany went into lockdown in March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Its reproduction rate has been drifting down for several days, leading to pressure from regional governments and business groups for restrictions to be relaxed.

The draft seen by Reuters, dated late on May 5, was prepared by federal chancellery chief Helge Braun and the heads of regional chancelleries for a telephone conference Chancellor Angela Merkel is to hold with state premiers later on Wednesday.

Based on infection levels, states will decide on their own about a gradual opening of universities, bars, trade fairs, cosmetic studios, brothels, theatres, cinemas and discos all under certain hygiene and distancing concepts, said the draft.

States will also decide on limiting contact between people.

On Tuesday the southern German state of Bavaria announced it would partially reopen for tourism later this month, with superstores, beer gardens, restaurants and hotels resuming operations, albeit with restrictions.

The draft document agreed between central government and the states said amateur open-air sports could restart, as could professional football in the first and second division under certain conditions, but it was unclear from the draft when exactly the Bundesliga would restart.

Some German states want the Bundesliga to kick off again on May 15 and two people familiar with the preparations have told Reuters it is probably set to be given the green light to restart then.

The draft document says the start of matches must be preceded by two weeks of quarantine, possibly as a training camp.

Schools should gradually reopen for all pupils and nurseries should start looking after more children from May 11, it said.

In a bid to prevent a second widespread coronavirus outbreak, the federal and state governments agreed in preliminary talks that if the number of new infections rises after restrictions on public life are eased, local restrictions should be reintroduced immediately.

The plan is for this threshold to be set at “more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within the last seven days” in districts. If there is a limited outbreak, such as in a nursing home, restrictions might only be applied there, the paper showed.

“If there is a dispersed regional outbreak and infection chains are unclear, general restrictions, such as those in force in Germany before 20 April, must be consistently reintroduced regionally,” the paper says.

This would include restricting travel to and from these regions.

Germany has been more successful than other large European countries in slowing the virus’ spread. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has increased by 947 to 164,807, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday. The reported death toll rose by 165 to 6,996.

Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Madeline Chambers, William Maclean

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