BERLIN (REUTERS, AFP) - Germany plans to extend its coronavirus lockdown until March 28 while easing some restrictions from next week, a draft document to be discussed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and federal state leaders showed on Tuesday (March 2).
Dr Merkel is due to discuss lockdown and easing options with the 16 state heads on Wednesday, as coronavirus cases in Germany hit more than 2.4 million and public frustration mounts over restrictive measures and a sluggish vaccine roll-out.
The draft document, seen by Reuters, states that starting from March 8, a maximum of five people from two households, excluding children younger than 14 years old, will be allowed to meet, up from a maximum of two people under current rules.
Flower and book stores, garden centres, tattoo and nail parlours as well as massage salons will also be allowed to reopen.
Dr Merkel and state leaders will have to decide at which seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents measures could be either toughened or eased. The document cited 35 and 50 as two likely possibilities.
With Easter approaching, the draft agreement also appeals to Germans to avoid domestic and foreign travel, adding, however, that limited visits to relatives will be allowed over the festive days.
The closure of all non-essential businesses and border controls with Austria and the Czech Republic, where there have been outbreaks linked to a more infectious variant of the virus, have helped Germany bring down new daily Covid-19 infections.
Restaurants and bars, hotels, cultural venues and leisure centres in Germany have been shuttered since November last year, followed by schools and non-essential shops in December.
The partial lockdown is slated to continue until March 7 but Dr Merkel's government left it to the country's individual states to decide when to reopen schools. Hairdressers were also given the green light to reopen from March 1.
As of Tuesday evening, Germany has recorded a cumulative total of 2,540,340 Covid-19 cases, with 70,515 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.