Berlin, Apr 20 (efe-epa).- Germany started to ease coronavirus restrictions on Monday with the reopening of non-essential shops as the rate of deaths from Covid-19 in the country continued to decline.
The nation has been severely affected by the pandemic with one of the highest numbers of confirmed cases but one of the lowest mortality rates.
There have been more than 141,600 infections and around 4,400 deaths, according to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.
Health minister Jens Spahn declared the country’s outbreak “under control” on Friday after the infection rate fell to 0.7, meaning each infected individual spreads the virus to less than one other person on average.
Germany has begun to gradually lift restrictive measures imposed a month ago with businesses under 800 square meters in size allowed to reopen from Monday.
Bike shops, car dealerships and bookstores have also been allowed to open regardless of their size.
Each of Germany’s 16 states will lift the restrictions at a different pace depending on their needs and the effect the pandemic has had on the region.
Social distancing measures, such as maintaining a minimum distance between people, are set to remain in place until at least 3 May.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that a growing debate about the economic and social effects of relaxing the lockdown could damage the country’s recovery from Covid-19, according to reports in the Germany media.
Speaking during a telephone conference with leaders from her centre-right CDU party on Monday she said she was “greatly concerned” the public could become complacent.
Germany’s central government was due to hold a meeting with state authorities on 30 April to discuss the steps towards a “new normality”.
Not all states started reopening on Monday, including Bavaria in the southeast, which has delayed the move until next week.
Bavarian authorities also announced that wearing a mask or covering over the mouth and nose would be mandatory on public transport and in shops from next week.
Saxony and Mecklenburg-Pomerania have also previously made it obligatory to wear face protection and other states have requested their residents do so. EFE-EPA