Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Germany eases lockdown, but 'emergency brake' on hand if needed

Country's Bundesliga football league plans to restart on May 15

German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for the beginning of a press conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 6, 2020 after an online meeting with German state governors on the loosening of the restictions to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. AFP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel waits for the beginning of a press conference in Berlin, Germany, on May 6, 2020 after an online meeting with German state governors on the loosening of the restictions to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday presented a roadmap to ease the coronavirus lockdown, which included an "emergency brake" to renew restrictions if infections increased.

Declaring an end to the first phase of the pandemic in Germany, Mrs Merkel said there was still a long way to go as scientists fear a second wave on infections if restrictions are not eased with diligence.

The government will decide on an economic stimulus package in June, she said, after a video conference with officials from the 16 states to discuss easing the country's lockdown measures.

The country went into lockdown in March to contain the contagion.

Its infection rate has been falling for several days, and Mrs Merkel said it was now consistently below one, meaning a person with the virus infects fewer 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," she said.

"So it has been possible to discuss and agree on further easing measures."

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 947 to 164,807, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed earlier on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 165 to 6,996.

Germany's Bundesliga said on Wednesday that it planned to restart on May 15, making it the first of Europe's top soccer leagues to return, after being given the government's approval.

The government said the Bundesliga and its second-tier could restart in the second half of May without spectators. The German soccer league would decide on the exact dates.

The league, due to meet on Thursday, later confirmed to Reuters that it planned to resume on May 15, saying a report in the Bild newspaper was correct.

Under the current schedule, the first match would be the relegation battle between Fortuna Duesseldorf and Paderborn, which was the 26th round.

"Today's decision is good news for the Bundesliga and the 2nd Bundesliga," league chief executive Christian Seifert said.

"It comes with a great responsibility for the clubs and their employees to implement the medical and organisational requirements in a disciplined manner."

Mr Seifert said that "games without stadium spectators are not an ideal solution for anyone".

"However, in a crisis that threatens the existence of some clubs, it is the only way to ensure the continued existence of the leagues in their current form."

The government said teams would have to go into quarantined training camps before the restart.

The league has been on hold since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has brought football to a standstill around the world.

Germany's progress is likely to be closely watched by other leagues.

Updated: May 7, 2020 12:47 AM

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