Angela Merkel ‘concerned’ as Germany inches to reopen after month-long lockdown

Frankfurt
am Main – Chancellor Angela Merkel is “greatly concerned” that
virus-fighting discipline among the German public may ebb as the country takes
its first steps out of a month-long lockdown, AFP learned from party sources on
Monday.

The veteran leader warned against
“orgies of discussion about opening up” society, in a telephone
conference with leaders of her centre-right CDU party on Monday morning,
participants in the call said.

After an apparent race among
regional leaders last month to appear the toughest in announcing lockdown
measures, some politicians have begun pushing for even faster loosening than
the reopening of smaller shops and schools Merkel announced last week.

Business lobbies have been
pressuring the government to move faster, but initial steps agreed between
Berlin and state capitals are tentative.

From Monday, shops up to 800
square metres can reopen as long as they impose hygiene controls, while next
week will see selected cohorts of pupils return to classrooms.

Merkel, ministers will track impact

On Friday, health minister Jens
Spahn said the pandemic was “once again under control” in Germany, as
the number of people infected by each person with the virus dropped below one.

But Merkel warned on Monday that
unless people continue to follow rules and advice like keeping their distance
from others and wearing masks, the picture could again worsen.

She and her ministers will track
the impact of the opening up measures over the coming days until 30 April, when
the lockdown is currently set to expire.

But it could be 8 or 9 May before
the true impact from reopening businesses and schools is seen, Merkel said,
according to the sources.

So far, most Germans have
expressed overwhelming support for the lockdown, with around 90% backing it, according
to polls earlier this month.

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