Exceptions to the lockdown, which has been in place since December, mean that hairdressers are able to reopen from March 1 and federal states can decide on their own timetables for the reopening of schools.
But German bars, restaurants, hotels, leisure centers and non-essential shops will remain closed until the seven-day virus incidence rate drops from the current 68 new cases per 100,000 people, to 35 cases.
Merkel said Germany should be “very satisfied” with its falling infection rates, but warned of a potential “third wave” due to the spread of variants in the country.
“We know that these mutants are a reality now, and with that [the infection rate] will increase. The question is how quickly it will increase,” she told a news briefing.
The Covid-19 variants from Brazil, South Africa and the UK have all been detected in Germany, according to the country’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI). On Wednesday the RKI reported 8,072 new Covid-19 cases and a further 813 fatalities, taking the country’s total death toll to more than 62,000.
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