German states lifting lockdowns too quickly, warns Angela Merkel

Germany risks damaging its recent achievements in subduing the spread of Covid-19, Angela Merkel has warned, admonishing regional leaders and party representatives for trying to rush their way out of lockdown restrictions.

Some smaller, non-essential stores reopened their doors in Germany this week as state authorities started to ease physical distancing measures introduced a month ago.

The country’s decentralised political system has allowed some of the 16 federal states to surge ahead with special exemptions for local businesses, such as North Rhine-Westphalia allowing the opening of larger furniture stores.

The implementation [of the exit strategy] gives me cause for concern,” Merkel said on Thursday while addressing parliamentarians in the Bundestag. “In parts it comes across as brisk, not to say too brisk.

“No one likes to hear it, but we are not in the end phase of this pandemic, but at the beginning,” the German chancellor said. “We will continue to have to live with it for a long time.

Merkel described the pandemic as “an imposition on our democracy, because it restricts precisely the things that make up our existential rights and needs”. Nonetheless, she said, the continued distancing measures were necessary.

The chancellor’s handling of the crisis, while drawing praise across the world, has also been the subject of criticism in Germany, where liberal politicians accused the conservative politician of acting in a more executive role than anticipated in the country’s constitution.

“In the handling of the corona epidemic, the chancellor is on the verge of unlawfully assuming a higher authority,” said Wolfgang Kubicki, of the pro-business Free Democratic party and the vice-president of the Bundestag.

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