Merkel and other top officials arrive to brief the press. Photo: Christian Marquardt - Pool/Getty Images
Germany will begin a "gradual" and "very careful" loosening of its coronavirus lockdown next week, though social distancing rules will remain in place through at least May 3, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.
Where things stand: After previously rebuffing calls for a plan to reopen the economy, Merkel laid out a general roadmap as much of Europe remains locked down.
- Smaller shops will be able to open next week, once they've established “plans to maintain hygiene." Car dealers and bookstores of any size can reopen Monday, but beauty salons will have to wait until May 4.
- Schools will “very slowly” begin to reopen on May 4, with students who have exams taking priority and new precautions being taken, including for school buses.
- Restaurants and bars will remain closed for the time being. Religious services and other large events won’t return until Aug. 31.
Why it matters: Germany has one of the world’s largest confirmed caseloads but far fewer deaths than countries like the U.K. and France. A widespread testing program and Merkel’s decisive leadership have been praised for containing the threat and potentially easing the road to recovery.
- Merkel is far from declaring victory. She said Germany had seen only "fragile intermediate success,” and she urged Germans to remain vigilant.