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Germany eases coronavirus restrictions on churches and playgrounds

Germany is set to allow the reopening of children’s playgrounds, zoos, museums and churches as the country begins to lift coronavirus restrictions.

Travel restrictions will however remain in place. Major public events will also remain prohibited, Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting with the heads of Germany’s 16 states.

On April 20 the federal states started to gradually ease coronavirus lockdown measures. It is however too early to for the authorities to judge from the number of new infections registered whether these steps to ease the measures have caused the rate of infection to increase despite hygiene regulations.

The German authorities will hold a meeting on May 6 to evaluate bigger moves to ease the country’s lockdown.

“Only with successful infection control and consistently low rates of new infections will it be possible to retain the less stringent measures in the long term and avoid the need for a return to nationwide restrictions. At the same time, economic and social assistance is being introduced to mitigate the negative impact of the crisis,” Chancellor Merkel and the Heads of Federal Governments said in a statement.

As the federal states continue to ease lockdown measures, they are read to act should the number of infections drastically increase. In such a case they can reintroduce comprehensive restrictions that were in force prior to 20 April.

Furthermore, restrictions on non-essential travel to and outside the particularly affected regions may be required in specific cases. If the infection gains new transregional momentum, giving rise to the fear that the healthcare system could be overwhelmed, some or all of the restrictions must be reintroduced in all the German federal states.

Major events such as public celebrations, major sporting events with spectators, larger concerts, festivals, village and town fêtes, street parties, wine and shooting festivals and funfairs are currently prohibited throughout Germany until August 31.

It is not yet clear when and under what conditions smaller public or private events and celebrations as well as events of a non-celebratory nature may be permitted to take place in future due to the particularly high risk of infection in this area. This will depend on the subsequent development of the epidemic.

The Chancellor and the Heads of Government of the Federal Governments thanked the churches and religious communities for playing an important role in helping to stop the spread of the coronavirus by exercising the necessary restraint and refraining from holding public services and prayer meetings despite major festivals in the past weeks. The success achieved as a result of these measures now means that they can gradually be eased.

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Also because of the specific protection of freedom of religion set down in the Basic Law, the review of the restrictive measures requires that assemblies to practise religion be permitted again as long as they comply with the specific requirements of infection control.

Playgrounds can be reopened under certain conditions to offer families additional public areas for recreation apart from green spaces and parks.

The following cultural institutions can also reopen, subject to conditions for hygiene, organising admission and preventing queues from forming: museums, exhibitions and galleries, memorials and zoological and botanical gardens.

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