In Brief: Merkel says first phase of crisis is over, but there’s still a long road ahead

Chancellor Angela Merkel credited social restrictions, and people’s compliance with them, for sparing the health system from being overwhelmed and ultimately saving lives.

Photo by Pixabay

 

By Sylvia Cunningham, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Caleb Larson

Angela Merkel says the first phase of the coronavirus health crisis is over.

The chancellor told reporters yesterday that contact restrictions will nevertheless be extended until June 5 with one exception: People from one household may get together with those from another household, as long as they keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren should begin returning to their classrooms before summer vacation, which depending on the German state, starts in June or July.

She also outlined a new emergency plan, in the event the infection rate shoots back up. Going forward, if any district sees more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people, restrictions must be reinstated until that number drops again, Merkel said.

The chancellor credited social restrictions, and people’s compliance with them, for sparing the health system from being overwhelmed and ultimately saving lives.

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Meanwhile, domestic travel can resume later this month as German states begin reopening for tourism.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is one state planning to reopen hotels to non-residents on May 25, according to Premier Manuela Schwesig.

She told reporters that it will be a challenge to open to visitors because more people are sick with COVID-19 elsewhere in Germany than in her state.

She added that social distancing and hygiene rules will be enforced and that no place will be allowed to fill up beyond 60%.

Vacation destinations outside Germany, meanwhile, remain off limits.

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Germany’s governing coalition is planning an emergency alternative to in-person polling stations ahead of next year’s federal elections.

Citing talks with coalition legal experts, the daily Rheinische Post reported on Wednesday that lawmakers are considering moving to a purely vote-by-mail system if Germany is still struggling with the coronavirus health crisis next year.

A Christian Democratic Union legal expert told the newspaper that mail-in ballots are quote “sensible” in light of the pandemic.

Currently, voting by mail is possible in Germany, though voting only by mail would require amending German electoral law.

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