German social distancing will be extended until May 10, Merkel aide says

BERLIN (Reuters) – Social distancing measures in Germany will be extended until May 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff said ahead of a government meeting later on Thursday to review lockdown restrictions.

Merkel and state leaders will discuss proposals on reopening schools and nurseries and resuming sporting events, but will wait until May 6 for data on the effect of first steps to ease the lockdown before moving again, Helge Braun said.

“The contact restrictions will certainly now be extended until May 10 for the time being”, he told broadcaster n-tv.

Germany began easing its lockdown last week, when some shops were allowed to open provided they practised strict social distancing, but Merkel and government advisers are worried about the coronavirus infection rate rising.

The novel coronavirus reproduction rate in Germany is currently estimated at 0.76 on average, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Thursday.

The education ministers of Germany’s 16 federal states agreed on Tuesday that schools would slowly reopen classes for all grades by the summer holidays, although pupils would have to work and learn in smaller groups.

Retailers with floor space of up to 800 square metres are now allowed to open, along with car and bicycle dealers, and bookstores, though they must practise strict social distancing and hygiene rules.

Four of Germany’s leading science institutes said on Wednesday Germans must persevere with social distancing or risk exponential growth in the number of coronavirus cases.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 1,478 to 159,119, data from the RKI showed earlier on Thursday. The tally showed 6,288 people have died of the disease, a rise of 173 compared to Wednesday.

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