German state causes alarm with plans to ease lockdown measures

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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 432 to 179,002, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.

The reported death toll rose by 45 to 8,302, the tally showed.

On Monday, Negotiations in Germany over a nationwide approach to relaxing lockdown measures were said to be in disarray after the state of Thuringia announced it was going it alone.

The federal government cancelled a meeting of its “corona cabinet” after Thuringia’s premier, Bodo Ramelow, announced his state would end both the obligatory wearing of face coverings and the limit on the number of people allowed to gather within the next two weeks.

“The danger is not over, but the strategy must be measured,” Ramelow said.

His announcement, which appeared to take the other 15 state leaders by surprise, flies in the face of the scientific advice that the federal government of Angela Merkel has been following, such as physical distancing, hygienic precautions and wearing face coverings.

Leaders had also wanted to see the effect from easing other measures, including the gradual opening of schools, before taking further steps.

According to German media, some of the coronavirus cabinet and state leaders accused Ramelow of taking a highly irresponsible approach, with one likening it to “stepping on a minefield”.

Jens Spahn, the federal health minister, said Ramelow’s announcement was premature, adding: “We cannot allow the impression to emerge that the pandemic is already over.

Right now we are seeing whole regions where day after day there are no new registered infections, and on the other hand, local and regional outbreaks where the virus is spreading quickly and which demand immediate intervention.”