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Coronavirus: Germany reopens small shops as it seeks to avoid 'on-off lockdown situation'

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Coronavirus: Germany reopens small shops as it seeks to avoid 'on-off lockdown situation'
Copyright  Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved   -   Matthias Schrader
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Small businesses, book shops, bicycle shops and car dealerships in Germany have been allowed to reopen as the country begins the tentative process of easing lockdown restrictions.

Beginning Monday, shops of 800 square metres and under were given the green light to resume trading, while citizens have been advised to wear face masks when in shops and using public transport.

Social distancing measures will remain in force.

These may be the first of such measures enacted to loosen the country's lockdown - but it is far from over.

From May 4, schools will begin to reopen, while larger gatherings and religious institutions will be closed until the end of August.

Bars, cafes, restaurants and cinemas will also remain closed.

Matthias Schrader/AP

It comes as Germany continues its campaign of widespread testing for the coronavirus, having set themselves far ahead of other major European countries for the number it conducts.

Germany has also begun mass antibody testing in order to work out just how far the illness has spread, and to continue to monitor its development.

Microbiologist professor Timo Ulrich told Euronews that with restrictions easing, scientists would be monitoring infections closely to avoid the possibility of a further surge in new cases.

He said: "We would like to keep everything like it is - that we have a decrease in the total number of infected individuals so that we are slightly in control of the whole situation.

"And if we have this easing of restrictions, we just do it step-by-step.

"The problem of that is our federal states - the 16 states - do it slightly differently from each other and we have to observe very carefully how the reopening of shops and the schools will have on the impact of the epidemiological numbers."

Matthias Schrader/AP

Further testing, therefore, could help monitor the situation better in hopes of avoiding reinstating strict restrictions and a second peak of COVID-19.

"You don’t want to run into an on-off situation where you have an ease of restrictions only to have to restart the robust restrictions again," he said.

Germany has confirmed more than 145,000 cases of coronavirus, while more than 4,500 people have lost their lives, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.