Coronavirus: Angela Merkel concerned over ‘brisk’ lifting of lockdown in Germany

German Chancellor warned the country is still in the beginning phase of the pandemic

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a session at the lower house of parliament, Bundestag, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Berlin, Germany, April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse
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Germany is still in the early stages in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak despite the loosening of some restrictions, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Thursday.

While small shops were allowed to re-open this week, Ms Merkel has repeatedly urged Germans to remain cautious and respect the rules.

She said the lifting of some quarantine measures had in parts come "across as brisk, not to say too brisk".

Retailers whose shops are up to 800 square metres are now allowed to open, along with car and bicycle dealers, and bookstores. Strict social distancing measures remain in place and face masks have been made compulsory in public.

While Germany has reported the fifth highest number of cases worldwide - nearly 150,000 - it's death toll of just over 5,000 is significantly lower than similar sized countries.

The latest figures showed cases where people recovered outnumbering new infections.

"It is precisely because the figures give rise to hope that I feel obliged to say that this interim result is fragile. We are on thin ice, the thinnest ice even," Ms Merkel told the lower house of parliament.

"We are still far from out of the woods," she said. "We are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning."

Social distancing rules will remain in place until May 3. Schools will start opening from May 4, with priority for final-year students. Hairdressers can also reopen then as Germany follows in the wake of other European countries in relaxing its measures.

"If we show the greatest possible endurance and discipline at the beginning of this pandemic, we will be able to return to economic, social and public life more quickly and sustainably," Ms Merkel said.

Germany has been praised for its initial response to the outbreak and, in particular, its policy of mass testing.