BERLIN, April 27 (Reuters) - Germany’s economy minister urged the country’s 16 federal states on Monday to go slowly in lifting coronavirus restrictions to avoid the outbreak spreading further and being forced to backtrack later.
Under Germany’s decentralised political system, the states have the power to implemen\t and rescind the social distancing measures on which Berlin is relying to slow the virus’s spread, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is resisting pressure from some to further ease restrictions.
Germany has had around 150,000 diagnosed cases of coronavirus, according to official figures published on Monday, but has only had 5,750 deaths, a far lower proportion of fatalities than neighbouring Italy, Spain, France and Britain.
“As a person who believes in fact-based decisions, I recommend to all of us to proceed very carefully in order not to be forced into eventually rescinding easing measures,” Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday.
Germany’s low death rate is attributed in part to it having imposed a strict lockdown earlier than other countries relative to the first case being detected.
The federal and state governments introduced the first lockdown measures during the week beginning on March 22, though the precise details of the measures and the dates they were introduced varied from state to state.
As the number of new infections has fallen, many businesses like smaller stores or car dealerships are allowed to reopen and some students are returning to schools.
Markus Soeder, the premier of Bavaria which has imposed some of the strictest social distancing measures, said his state was only taking small steps towards easing lockdown in order not to jeopardize early successes in fighting the disease.
Soeder told BR radio that 80% of the retail sector are open again. “If it works out this week, we can think about a further easing.” (Reporting by Thomas Seythal Editing by Thomas Escritt and Raissa Kasolowsky)