(SGI+) German chancellor Angela Merkel announced this week that certain types of shops could reopen in Germany as of April 20. In addition to car dealerships, bicycle shops and bookstores of all sizes, retailers for “non-essential items” can reopen their doors as long as they do not exceed a sales area of 800 square meters. Since the final decision on the relaxation of the regulations lies with the state governments, a different regulation will apply to the state of Bavaria, which has the most corona cases in the country: Here, the rules will not be relaxed until a week later. Restaurants, cafés, bars and shopping centers will remain closed throughout the entire country. Hairdressers will be allowed to work again starting May 4. Major events will remain prohibited until the end of August. The current restrictions on social distancing will be extended in Germany until at least May 3. A small detail with a potentially big effect, especially for lovers of outdoor activities: According to the Bavarian state government, from Monday April 20, outdoor sports and exercise will be permitted not only with members of the person’s own household, but also with one “outsider.”

The German government recommends wearing masks when shopping or using public transport. It will discuss further steps on April 30, depending on how the infection rate develops. Merkel pointed out in a press conference that it will be necessary for retailers to take a large number of preparatory measures before they can reopen their shops, notably in terms of hygienic regulations. The store personnel will have to wear masks and limit the number of shoppers inside the store, keeping a certain distance between them.

Germany’s neighbor, Austria, is also one of the European countries where the government took strict containment measures relatively early on. In Austria, the government of chancellor Sebastian Kurz relaxed the rules already after the Easter weekend. The reopening of shops is taking place gradually: As of this week, shops with less than 400 square meters as well as hardware stores and garden centers may reopen with restrictions. From May 1, all other shops and hairdressers will follow. Not until mid-May will all other service businesses, hotels and restaurants follow unless the Austrian corona crisis management team decides against it by the end of April. In any case, cultural and sporting events will remain prohibited until July. Wearing a facemask is compulsory in Austria in shops and on public transport.

In other countries such as Denmark and the Czech Republic, the ban on retail businesses has also been loosened to some extent. Conversely, press reports indicate that the Swedish government, which had not ordered a general closure of the retail sector since the beginning of the crisis and continued to rely on the sense of responsibility of its residents, is now considering the imposition of restrictions on store openings. Some shops in Sweden have closed their doors anyway because there was insufficient demand for non-essential items, including most fashion and sporting goods.

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