Merkel envisages 'emergency brake' mechanism in case Covid-19 spikes

While announcing steps on Wednesday to ease the coronavirus lockdown in Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel launched an "emergency brake" mechanism allowing for renewed restrictions in case infections pick up again, news wires reported.

Declaring an end to the first phase of the pandemic in Germany, Merkel said there was still a long way to go in the battle against the virus. Germany went into lockdown in March to contain coronavirus contagion. Its reproduction rate has been falling for several days, and Merkel said it was now consistently below 1 - meaning a person with the virus infects less than one other on average. "We are at a point where our goal of slowing the spread of the virus has been achieved and we have been able to protect our health system..., so it has been possible to discuss and agree on further easing measures," Merkel told reporters.

After talks with regional leaders she said they agreed on an "emergency brake", a fail-safe under which restrictions would be reintroduced if an area registers more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days. "If something happens locally, we won't wait until it has spread through the whole republic, but rather we will act locally," Merkel said.

"We now face a phase in which there will be a lot more (person-to-person) contact than was the case up to now." "We are following a bold path. We can afford to be a bit bold but we must remain cautious," Merkel said.

Under measures agreed with Germany's 16 federal state leaders, people from two households will be allowed to meet, and more shops will open, provided hygiene measures are in place.

But guidelines on people keeping a distance of 1.5 metres from each other and wearing mouth and nose masks on public transport will remain in place.

Germany's Bundesliga soccer league can resume in the second half of May. Schools would gradually start reintroducing all pupils and emergency care for kindergarten-aged children would be expanded, with details to be regulated by the states. People in care homes may again receive regular visits from "a permanent contact person".

The government will decide on an economic stimulus package in June, Merkel also said.

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