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In Germany, Some Shops Will Reopen Next Week, But Social Distancing Continues

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the country's lockdown can begin to lift, after reaching a "fragile interim success."

For more than three weeks, there has been a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and people are required to keep a distance of 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) between each other. That ban was set to expire on Sunday, but has now been extended until May 3.

Schools, which have been closed across the country have been closed since mid-March, are now slated to start reopening on May 4.

Hairdressers and barbers will also be allowed to open their doors on May 4, provided they have protective measures in place.

Some stores will be permitted to open next week, if they implement hygiene precautions. Only shops that are up to 800 square meters (8611.13 square feet) will be allowed to re-open at that time. Car dealerships, bike shops, and bookstores are allowed to re-open, no matter their size, the BBC reports.

Merkel says the restrictions on shops are necessary because "we have to be careful that we don't completely re-enable public activity in city centers, because then chains of infection will arise," according to AFP.

The government is also strongly recommending, but not requiring, that face masks are worn on public transit and while shopping.

Volkswagen announced that its factories in Zwickau, Germany and Bratislava, Slovakia will resume production next week.

Germany has more than 133,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and has seen nearly 3,600 deaths from COVID-19.

Merkel says the government will convene every two weeks to assess next steps.

"We need to understand that we will need to live with the virus as long as there is no medication or vaccine," Merkel said, according to Deutsche Welle.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.