Germany's COVID case numbers drop as country waits for opening

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Frankfurt
The Frankfurt skyline is pictured, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Frankfurt, Germany, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Coronavirus case numbers have slightly dropped in Germany, as the government plans to loosen coronavirus restrictions in Europe's biggest economy.

Germany reported 76,465 new daily coronavirus cases on Monday, down 20% from the same day last week. The 7-day infection incidence per 100,000 people also fell to 1,460 from 1,467 on Sunday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the heads of the federal states are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss possible easing.

Among possible steps is dropping requirements for shoppers at non-essential stores to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result, a draft prepared for the meeting and seen by Reuters showed.

The draft also included plans to increase the number of people allowed at indoor private gatherings to 20 if all of them are vaccinated.

In a second phase of easing, night clubs could re-open and unvaccinated Germans would be allowed into restaurants from March 4, the draft showed.

A requirement to wear masks indoors and on public transportation is to remain in place.

Germany's expert panel said on Sunday that the government needed to put plans in place for easing curbs, given the current wave of infections was expected to flatten in the coming weeks, but it warned against loosening restrictions too soon.

"Thanks to the milder course of the disease, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic, which allows prospects for gradual opening," Hendrik Wuest, the prime minister of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, told Welt newspaper.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner also called on federal and state governments to decide on a comprehensive easing at their meeting on Wednesday, adding that there must be a "noticeable difference in everyday life" afterwards.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Christian Kraemer; Editing by Toby Chopra and Tomasz Janowski

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