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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.

Go deeper

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

Staff for retiring Senate Republicans a K Street prize

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The retirements of high-profile Senate Republicans mean a lot of experienced staffers will soon be seeking new jobs, and Washington lobbying and public affairs firms are eyeing a potential glut of top-notch talent.

Why it matters: Roy Blunt is the fifth Republican dealmaker in the Senate to announce his retirement next year. Staffers left behind who can navigate the upper chamber of Congress will be gold for the city’s influence industry.