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The German government has decided to reopen the country after an entire month of lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic.
On April 15, Chancellor Angela Merkel laid out the country’s plan to reopen businesses in Germany gradually. The move comes a month after Europe’s biggest economy effectively shuts down while trying to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. However, official reports reveal that social distancing will remain as the country resumes public life.
Several small businesses are scheduled for reopening on April 20 while schools will resume on May 4. Since March 16, a chunk of the businesses in the country shut down as the government limited economic life to just pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores, banks, and other essential services. People were urged to remain at home the entire time.
Social distancing measures were extended to May 3 with people required to maintain a 1.5-meter distance while in public. Also, public gatherings are restricted to just two people except for family members. Official reports state that large gatherings are banned until August 31 with religious gatherings suspended until further notice.
As the country reopens, the Chancellor said that people are encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel and wear masks while in public. The country’s strict social distancing measures prevented Germany’s health-care system from getting overwhelmed according to Merkel. But, she warned that this was a fragile, partial success adding:
“We don’t have a lot of leeways, we have to remain focused and continue. Our consultations, therefore, decided that we cannot get ahead of ourselves. We have to understand that we must live the virus so long as there’s no medicine or vaccine.”
Economy to Reopen in Germany while Coronavirus Is Still Here
Any business that does not exceed 800 square meters can reopen. Also, bike shops, car dealerships, and bookstores can reopen irrespective of their sizes. In the case of hair salons, they can reopen on May 4 but the laborers must wear personal protective equipment at all times.
Notably, all shops that reopen in Germany must adhere to regulations on hygiene and ensure that their premises never have crowds at any given time. Restaurants can only offer delivery and takeout services. Clubs, bars, theaters, and concert venues will remain closed for now. Whenever possible, companies should let their workers continue staying at home or do some work while at home.
According to an official government document outlining the reopening plan, the goal is to take small steps towards restarting public life. Through these strategic steps, the public will gradually get more freedom of movement and eventually, the value-added chains will reopen. But, the government is cautious in the reopening process to avoid any new cases of re-infection.
The government said in its outline:
“We all have to remain conscious that the epidemic has not been overcome by slowing the chain of infection — it continues. Therefore, we cannot return to the life we were accustomed to before the epidemic. Instead, we must learn how we can live with the epidemic for a long time to come.”
Over 133,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Germany as of April 15, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University. Only the United States, Italy, and Spain have more in terms of total reported infections.
But, Germany, has managed to keep the death toll significantly low compared to the other hard-hit nations. Almost 3,600 people have succumbed to the coronavirus in Germany. The company will re-open even as the infection rate surpasses 2 million globally.
After interacting with a doctor that tested positive for COVID-19, Merkel went into self-quarantine in March. She eventually tested negative and returned to work earlier this month.