Germany aims to lift a travel warning for 31 European countries from mid-June, a government source said, and media reported that social distancing rules imposed to avoid the coronavirus could be eased from June 29, a week earlier than planned.
German regions are in talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on how to further relax restrictions introduced in March to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. An initial easing of measures does not seem to have caused a significant spike in infections.
Balancing the need to revive Europe’s biggest economy – which faces its deepest recession since World War Two – with protecting public health, Germany’s 16 state premiers will try on Wednesday to agree with Merkel on the way forward.
She has counselled caution, warning of a new wave of infections if curbs on contact and movement are eased too fast.
A government source said her cabinet may on Wednesday decide to lift a warning against travel to 26 fellow EU countries plus Britain, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein from June 15, if infection rates remain lower and under control.
That would open the way to separate pieces of advice on travel for given regions.
Markus Soeder, premier of Bavaria, the hardest-hit state, voiced opposition to moving too fast in reopening tourism.
“We have in Italy, Spain and France completely different infection numbers compared to Germany so I ask the federal government to think very carefully about this,” he said.
“Nobody should be fooled. Corona remains deadly,” Soeder said, describing Thuringia state’s shift towards adopting voluntary, localised measures as a “fatal signal”.
Under Germany’s federal system, individual states can decide which measures to enforce.
The Bild daily said Merkel, under pressure from state premiers, had agreed to advance the date that social distancing should be relaxed to June 29 from July 5, citing a draft document still to be agreed. The government declined comment.
Germany has kept its COVID-19 death rate relatively low, at 8,302 so far despite a high number of cases.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin, Markus Wacket, Thomas Seythal, Thomas Escritt and Berlin bureau Writing by Madeline Chambers Editing by Mark Heinrich)