Ministers and prime ministers in several federal states have said they are not willing to wait for Angela Merkel’s next briefing about the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday and would rather go their “own way” on dealing with the invisible killer disease. Germany took a further step on the long road back to post-coronavirus normality on Monday, with museums and hairdressers reopening under strict conditions, churches opening their doors for worshippers, and more car factories resuming work.
But more than a month after Germany suspended all but essential social and commercial life to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, politicians are at odds over how far and how fast to move.
There is mounting pressure from business groups and some regional governments who are anxious to move faster on restarting economic life.
But Mrs Merkel has warned reopening too swiftly risks triggering a second wave of infections.
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Joachim Stamp, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister of Family Affairs, said her state would go it alone when opening daycare centres if, on Wednesday, the Chancellor blocked further easing of the restriction for small children.
She said: “I would now like to go our own way. We will not allow ourselves to be put off for another week.
“We have to get the children back in as quickly as possible.
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“As family ministers, we have shown clear paths. There is a concept of gradual opening. There are four phases: from emergency care to extended emergency care to improvised regular operation and finally regular operation.”
She also launched an attack on Mrs Merkel’s talks with the Minister Presidents, saying they should not be the only officials allowed to decide on the next steps to fight the crisis.
She said: “You could get the impression that we are at court. The states need their freedom, the pandemic affects the state to different degrees.”
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Smaller shops are already back to business in Europe’s largest economy as long as they respect social distancing rules to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Sources said German states are also set to allow the Bundesliga soccer league to resume matches, probably from May 15, under strict conditions without fans in stadiums.
At the same time, state premiers will reportedly allow outdoor sports for non-professionals and children.
The states will also agree to reopen schools for all grades step-by-step, though most children will only be allowed to go to class in rotating shifts, not on daily basis, the sources said.
A source said officials are aware that “something needs to be done” to gradually reopen day nurseries and kindergartens for as many toddlers as possible to help working parents.
Germany has been more successful than other large European countries in slowing the virus’ spread – it estimates that every 100 carriers of the virus now infects only 74 others on average, well below the 100 mark where new restrictions must be imposed.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.