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Germany reopened some shops on Monday, taking the first step in a gradual restart to public life after Europe’s largest economy endured a four-week lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The retailers allowed to resume business include shops with a surface area of up to 8,600 square feet (800 square meters), along with car and bicycle dealers, and bookstores. Social distancing and hygiene rules remain in effect.
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Bigger stores “draw large numbers of people into the city center, they have high customer numbers and that isn’t possible in the first step,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told German television channel n-tv.
In a deal Merkel reached with state leaders last week, state governments are responsible for imposing and loosening shutdown measures.
SWEDEN SEES JUMP IN CORONAVIRUS DEATHS WITH LESS RESTRICTIVE GUIDELINES UNDER SCRUTINY
Berlin and neighboring Brandenburg are expected to reopen small shops later this week. The eastern state of Thuringia is waiting until next Monday. So is Bavaria, although it is allowing DIY and garden shops to reopen Monday.
Several states plan to make wearing masks or face coverings mandatory inside shops and on public transportation as restrictions are eased. Saxony instituted the rule Monday, while Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will require similar rules starting next week.
While the infection rate has slowed throughout Germany, Bavaria Gov. Markus Soeder said that “the development is fragile” and warned against “a constant stop and go” regarding tightening and loosening restrictions.
“My recommendation is: better a bit slower and more cautiously, but more sustainably,” Soeder said.
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Germany has at least 145,743 COVID-19 cases – the fifth most in the world behind the U.S., Spain, Italy, and France – with 4,642 deaths as of Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.