Germany and Spain have begun easing their coronavirus lockdowns – as leaders of both countries cautioned there will be no quick return to normal.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the lockdown will be eased step by step in a ‘gradual, safe and coordinated’ way, with each move analysed carefully to see its impact on infections.
Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel warned ‘we can’t return to life like it was before coronavirus’ and said some states had already gone too far in relaxing measures.
She spoke after state governors began rapidly issuing special exemptions for non-essential businesses to reopen, including large furniture stores in the most-populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia.
Both leaders stressed that they will not hesitate to reintroduce lockdowns if infections begin spiking again.
‘We are in for the long haul. We must not lose energy before we reach the end,’ Merkel said, adding: ‘It would be a terrible shame if our hope punishes us.’
Germany and Spain have both begun easing lockdown measures, though leaders Angela Merkel (left) and Pedro Sanchez both urged caution
Some schools have reopened in Germany this week along with non-essential businesses, though Merkel warned some were going too far and too fast
People head back to Schoneberg city park in Berlin while observing social distancing as Germany slowly eases lockdown measures
As well as reopening non-essential businesses, Germany also began reopening schools this week – with additional social distancing measures.
Meanwhile Spain has allowed construction and manufacturing workers to return to their jobs, and said that from this Sunday children will be allowed out of the house for walks.
Is Germany leaving lockdown too fast?
Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned some German states are being too hasty to exit lockdown, and could cause a new spike in virus cases.
It comes after the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania reopened zoos and fitness studios.
Brandenburg, which neighbours Berlin, has permitted gatherings of 20 people.
Rhineland-Palatinate also allowed the reopening of shopping malls, zoos, and some party gatherings.
Because of the country’s decentralised political system, states have been largely to themselves how to ease lockdown measures – with guidance from central government.
Some states – such as Saxony and Bavaria – have made it compulsory to wear facemasks in public as people return to the streets.
But others have argued the coverings are unnecessary and there is no evidence they prevent the spread of the disease.
They had previously not been allowed out of the house for any reason.
Mr Sanchez said other measures will start being eased from May 10, as parliament voted to extend the current lockdown until at least May 9.
He has not made it clear which measures will be the first to go, or how long the process might take.
Spain reported 4,635 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a slight increase on the 4,211 reported Wednesday but still far below the peak of 9,222 on March 31.
That brings the country’s total number of cases from 208,389 to 213,024.
Another 440 people also died of the infection, bringing the total from 4,211 to 4,635. The figure is in line with the daily totals from the last four days.
In Germany, 215 deaths were announced – bringing the total from 4,879 to 5,094.
New infections also rose by 2,352, taking the total infected from 145,964 to 148,046.
Germany’s daily infection total has remained largely flat this week, while the number of deaths has continued to fluctuate.
Speaking to parliament on Thursday morning, Mrs Merkel cautioned ‘we’re still walking on thin ice, one could also say the thinnest ice’.
‘We’re not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning. We will be living with this virus for a long time.’
A construction worker at a Volkswagen plant in Zwickau, eastern Germany, gets back to work building electric cars after the plant reopened on Thursday
Germany announced 2,352 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total from 145,964 to 148,046. Despite peaks and troughs, German cases have been generally in decline for weeks
The country also announced another 215 deaths, bringing the total from 4,879 to 5,094. Deaths in Germany have also been fluctuating, but have generally been in decline
Traffic returns to the German autobahn in Gelsenkirchen, on the outskirts of Essen, as the country begins easing lockdown measures
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