State by State, Germany Relaxes Covid Rules, Even as Cases Surge

State by State, Germany Relaxes Covid Rules, Even as Cases Surge

After months of having to shop online, Germans in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein who are neither vaccinated nor have recovered from Covid-19 regained access to nonessential shops on Wednesday, as a number of German states loosen restrictions even with case numbers rising.

Though case numbers are at a record level, Germany is recording relatively few Covid deaths and stable hospitalization rates. On Tuesday, the head of Germany’s hospital association, Gerald Gass, said he believed the health system would not be overburdened in the coming weeks.

Other states that have eased some restrictions, whether curfews or rules for shopping or restaurants, are Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hesse and Rheinland-Pfalz. Masks will continue to be obligatory in stores and indoor public spaces.

Germany has recorded a daily average of about 167,000 cases over the past week, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, well over its previous peak of about 58,000 new cases a day, in November. But the number of deaths has declined by 27 percent over the past two weeks, and the number of patients in intensive care beds is half what it was in December.

Officials from the federal and state governments are scheduled to meet next week in an effort to coordinate the easing of rules. This week, Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s health minister, signaled the drawdown of coronavirus restrictions would happen well before Easter, on April 17.

A unified approach has long been difficult to enforce, with state governors often acting independently, depending on state infection rates and politics. On Monday, Markus Söder, the governor of Bavaria, announced that his state would not enforce a federal law passed this year that mandates vaccinations for health care workers.

On Tuesday, Tobias Hans, the governor of the state of Saarland, called for the law to be dropped altogether, suggesting that medical personnel would otherwise move to states where it was not enforced.

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