Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) warned on Friday against a “landslide” of further reopenings, as many federal states lifted coronavirus lockdowns this week.
The warning comes as a new poll by broadcaster ZDF showed that 55% of Germans back the gradual lifting of lockdowns restrictions rolled out this week by various federal states.
RKI said in its daily press conference that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany will need to fall to a few hundred per day, before the country can consider further easing.
As of Friday, Germany registered 2,337 new coronavirus cases, a slight decrease in a tally that had been rising for three straight days.
In an agreement between the federal government and the states, non-essential stores of up to 800 square meters (8,610 square feet) in size were re-opened, as well as car dealers, book and bicycle shops of any size.
RKI: more reopening, more testing
Lars Schaade, RKI vice-president, said that Germany had was coping well with the pandemic in comparison to other countries, but warned that the country could not “become negligent.”
“We should not lower our guard now,” Schaade said.
RKI announced that it had widened its recommendation for who can be tested to include anyone with symptoms of respiratory infections, even if they had no known contact with a COVID-19 case.
“Now that the government is easing restrictions gradually… it is particularly important to be able to identify COVID-19 in people who only have mild symptoms,” Schaade said.
RKI urge the public to adhere to social distancing and hand-washing measures, adding that the use of masks is recommended but should be complementing these actions.
Germans back gradual reopening
In the ZDF poll, a wide majority of 81% of Germans said they felt their government was doing enough to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
As 55% said they backed the gradual lift of coronavirus lockdown measures, some 13% said they wanted to see more efforts in reopening, while 30% felt that “too much” was being loosened.
Germans appeared to be in line with their government’s lockdown rollbacks, with 53% approving the upcoming partial reopening of schools and vast majority, or 94%, agreed that large events should be banned until August.
More than two-thirds, or 68%, agreed that it was too soon to reopen restaurants and bars.
A general concern about the country’s economy could be driving public support for a gradual reopening, as 73% of Germans said they expect an economic downturn to follow the pandemic.
Reopening discussion looms
The RKI warning is the latest addition in Germany’s national discussion over how to proceed as the pandemic continues and the country feels the economic effects of shuttering business activity.
This has prompted other business sectors to weigh whether to open back or not. One of them was the German football league, which announced it would reintroduce games without fans next month, a move that was backed 46% percent of Germans and rejected by 40%.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized what she viewed as excessive “reopening discussions orgies” in some federal states, which seemed too eager to emerge from partial lockdown.
Merkel has also sounded the alarm on rolling back the gains the country has made in stemming the crisis. “We’re not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning,” she told lawmakers on Thursday. “We will be living with this virus for a long time.”
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas echoed Merkel’s words on Friday, during a press conference with Ann Linde, the foreign minister of Sweden, a country that has kept itself largely open and served as an exception in Europe.
Maas said Germany would be “very, very careful with the loosening up” going forward.
“What we want to avoid is a second wave, which will hit us much harder, both in terms of health and the economy,” Maas said.
jcg/sms (Reuters, dpa)