German Chancellor Angela Merkel set out plans Wednesday for the gradual reopening of the country after weeks-long restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Limits on social contact will remain in place until June 5, she said, but Germans can now meet with members of one other household as well as their own. People must still remain 1.5 meters apart and cover their mouths and noses in public.
Shops can reopen but with additional hygiene measures, Merkel said, speaking at a news conference following a video meeting with the prime ministers of Germany’s 16 states.
“The first phase of the pandemic is behind us but we are still at the beginning and it will be with us for a long time,” she said.
Germany’s top football league, the Bundesliga, can also resume play in the second half of May, Merkel said. She did not specify if this would be with spectators or behind closed doors.
It would be the first major European league to resume playing. Last week France canceled its season and declared Paris Saint-Germain the winner of Ligue 1.
Merkel said authorities would watch local regions to ensure any outbreak was stopped.
“We can afford a bit of courage,” she said, but cautioned that “we have to watch that this thing does not slip out of our hands.”
Germany has had more than 167,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 6,993 deaths, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The country is widely considered to have responded effectively to the pandemic, thanks in part to its large-scale coronavirus testing capacity.
Merkel had already announced some slight relaxing of restrictions last week.
Church and other religious service services could be held under strict hygiene measures, she said last Thursday. Playgrounds, museums, galleries and memorial sites would also be allowed to reopen but must have enhanced hygiene measures.
Hairdressers’ salons opened Monday after weeks of shutdown, but customers were not able to walk in – they now need an appointment and in Berlin have to fill out a questionnaire.