Germany-wide coronavirus efforts fray as focus shifts to states

Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to lead another conference call with Germany’s 16 state premiers on Wednesday, as regional differences in the easing of coronavirus restrictions undermine her efforts to coordinate a nationwide battle plan.

Merkel has been holding frequent talks with the leaders throughout the crisis, but gains made in Germany’s infection data have prompted several states to inch out of lockdown without her blessing, as the country’s federal division of powers allows them to do.

In a position paper written up ahead of the talks, seen by dpa, the federal government says it will largely leave the responsibility for further easing of restrictions to the individual states.

In return, however, Merkel will push for state governments to sign up to a limit on new infections, meaning that if a district or city records more than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents during a seven-day period, it must reintroduce tougher measures.

On Tuesday, the country’s top disease official noted that the number of new cases reported daily across the nation now falls within a spectrum of between 700 and 1,600.

“This is very good news,” said Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute.

More than 164,800 cases of infection have been recorded in Germany so far, including more than 6,900 deaths, according to a dpa tally.

Germany began lifting its anti-coronavirus measures from April 20 with the reopening of some shops, after sweeping restrictions were first introduced in mid-March. Hairdressers, museums, churches and zoos have followed.

Now the states of Bavaria in the south, and Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north, have further ramped up the pressure by moving to relaunch domestic tourism.

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