German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech at the lower house of parliament, Bundestag, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Berlin, Germany, April 23, 2020. (Photo: AP)
BERLIN, May 6 (Xinhua) -- COVID-19 restrictions in Germany would be eased while minimum social distance and hygiene rules would continue to apply, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday.
"I think we can say that we have passed the first phase of the pandemic," said Merkel after a telephone conference with minister-presidents of federal states.
The chancellor said that the current figures released by Germany's disease control agency RKI were "very pleasing" and German citizens had "lived responsibly and thus saved the lives of other people."
Merkel confirmed an "emergency mechanism" which would be triggered if more than 50 new infections over seven days per 100,000 inhabitants were locally detected in a certain region.
If such rates were measured, the affected federal states would be required to reintroduce stricter measures, although states would be allowed to decide how exactly the measures would look like.
A minimum distance of 1.5 meters and obligatory face masks in certain places such as public transport would continue to exist, and the contact restrictions in Germany would remain in force until June 5.
However, the contact restriction on people within the same household was eased. People from two households, such as two families, two couples or members of shared flats, are now allowed to meet each other.
In addition, emergency care in German schools and day-care centers were to be expanded "because children rightly want to return to their normal lives," said Merkel, stressing that the process was ongoing.
A complete visitation ban in nursing homes for older people was also lifted. Now a permanent contact person was again permitted to visit relatives in such institutions.
Germany's Bundesliga, the country's football league, would be allowed to restart operations without fans in empty stadiums under strict hygiene regulations for the second half of the season in mid-May.
"I know that the responsible people in the Bundesliga clubs will do everything to achieve safety," said Bavarian Minister-President Markus Soeder at the press conference.
Bavaria on Tuesday announced its schedule for a gradual reopening, ahead of the telephone conference between Merkel and federal state leaders.
The state government of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania also announced plans to lift restrictions on Tuesday.
On Monday, Lower Saxony became the first German state to present a step-by-step plan to ease restrictions.