"A balanced outcome"

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Angela Merkel reports on meeting with state premiers "A balanced outcome"

Schools are to reopen for students before the summer holidays, people in hospitals and care home are to be allowed visitors again – the federal and state governments have decided on further easing of the measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. An emergency mechanism is to ensure that any new spike in infections can be quickly contained.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference following her meeting with the premiers of the federal states.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday with the state premiers of Bavaria and Hamburg, Markus Söder (at left) and Peter Tschentscher

Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins

"We can say today that the very first phase of the pandemic now lies behind us, but we must always remember that we still have a long way to go as regards dealing with the virus," stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel after her meeting with the premiers of the federal states on Wednesday. The latest infection figures, she said, are "very encouraging". The Chancellor stated that she is very glad that it has proved possible to keep the numbers down even after the first restrictions were lifted. That is why, she continued, it was possible to discuss and agree on further easing of restrictions.

Contact restrictions remain in place

The following measures will remain in place: a minimum distance requirement of 1.5 metres and the use of masks, especially on public transport and in shops. The contact restrictions will remain in place until 5 June. It will, however, be permitted for members of two households to meet. This shall not affect decisions already taken by individual federal states.

Easing for children and elderly people

Before the summer holidays, schools are to reopen for all schoolchildren. It was also decided that the emergency cover provided by nurseries will be extended. The Chancellor underlined that elderly people in care homes, who have not been allowed to have visitors for weeks are "particularly important" to her. In future it will be possible for people in hospitals, care homes, pension homes and facilities for people with disabilities  to receive regular visits from one designated contact person, provided there are no active COVID-19 cases in the facility.

Opening businesses, permitting sporting activities, facilitating cultural activities

Under strict hygiene and protective conditions, shops of all sizes will be allowed to open, and recreational sport will again be permitted outside. The first and second Bundesliga divisions will also be able to resume playing as of the second half of May under the approved and tested regulations. The Minister of State for Culture and the Media and the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the federal states have been asked to draw up a strategy for theatres, opera houses, concert venues and cinemas.

You can read the resolutions published by the federal and state governments on 6 May here. The individual federal states will be responsible for implementing the decisions taken and for deciding when each regulation is to come into effect. You can find details for each individual federal state here.

Emergency mechanism to kick in if new hotspots emerge

Should there be a sudden new spike in infections, it was agreed that an "emergency mechanism" will kick in. If a district or urban municipality records more than 50 new cases of infection cumulatively per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period, new restrictions will be imposed. The federal states will ensure that this is implemented.

If an outbreak is localised and clearly defined, such as in one hospital or home, the restrictions need only apply to this specific facility. If an outbreak occurs regionally over a larger area and the chains of infection are unclear, then rigorous general restrictions will have to be reintroduced on a regional basis, such as those in place prior to 20 April.

A balanced outcome

"All in all we had a very constructive discussion. In view of the diversity of our federal system, it is no surprise that there are always different opinions on what is most important. That’s completely normal," said the Chancellor. All participants agreed, she added, that the hygiene regulations must be observed everywhere. This is particularly challenging for the hospitality and catering sector, but also for all other sectors that are now opening. But it is better to move forward gradually step by step and give people prospects than not moving forward at all.

"Not only do we have – and I regard this as crucial – a path towards more opening. We also have a backup plan that says if something happens somewhere, if the infection rate increases somewhere, then we have an emergency mechanism, and in that case only specific regions, and not the whole country, may have to retrace their steps. All in all, I think this is a balanced outcome," stressed the Chancellor.