MUNICH (Reuters) - The southern German state of Bavaria will partially reopen for tourism later this month, its premier Markus Soeder said on Tuesday, with superstores, beer gardens, restaurants and hotels resuming operations, albeit with restrictions.
The announcement comes as states across Germany ready plans to partially defrost an economy that went into lockdown in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that was then wreaking havoc in northern Italy.
The lockdown measures have slowed the spread of the virus, whose reproduction rate has been drifting down for several days, leading to growing pressure from regional governments and business groups for them to be relaxed - despite Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fear that this could trigger a second wave.
At local government level, dozen of mayors from border regions in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, to Bavaria’s west, urged the state and federal governments to open the borders to France and Switzerland.
The federal government has extended controls along the frontier with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark until May 15 to help limit coronavirus transmissions.
The umbrella group representing German industry, the BDI, warned in Bild newspaper that Germany’s future as a major manufacturer could be endangered if lockdown measures continued.
After being the first of German state premiers to call for strict lockdown measures to contain the virus, Soeder’s latest announcement makes him among the first to announce concrete measures for reopening the economy.
From Wednesday, Bavaria will move from a policy of limiting people’s comings and goings to one of limiting personal contact, he said, and it will once more be possible for families to visit elderly relatives, a group particularly at risk, in care homes.
Soeder said beer gardens would open on May 18 in the wealthy Alpine state, with restaurants opening a week later, though with distancing requirements to minimise the risk of the coronavirus passing between guests. They would need to close at 10 p.m.
“We will allow hotels and tourism from the Pentecost weekend, the 30th, but without saunas, wellness facilities or swimming pools,” he told reporters.
Reporting by Alexander Huebner; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Michelle Martin and Mark Heinrich