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The states have the power under Germany's decentralized political system to implement and rescind the social distancing measures on which the federal government relies to slow the spread of the virus. Chancellor Angela Merkel resists pressure from business groups to lighten further restrictions.
According to official figures published on Monday, Germany had around 155,000 diagnosed cases of coronavirus but had only 5,750 deaths, a far lower proportion of deaths than neighboring Italy, Spain, France and Britain.
"As a person who believes in fact-based decisions, I recommend that we all proceed very carefully so as not to be forced into eventually rescinding easing measures," Peter Altmaier told Monday radio station Deutschlandfunk.
In a letter to lawmakers from the ruling coalition seen by Reuters, Helge Braun, Merkel's chief of staff, wrote that Germany should be optimistic, adding: "In the interests of the entire population, it is too early to lift social distancing to avoid overburdening the health system in the long term." Germany's low death rate is partly attributed to having imposed a strict lockdown earlier than before.
During the week beginning on March 22, the federal and state governments introduced the first lockdown measures, though the precise details of the measures and the dates they were implemented varied from state to state.
On Monday the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases said confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany increased by 1,018 to 155,193. Cases on Sunday increased by 1,737, and rose by 2,055 on Saturday.
"You have to remember that talking about a massive easing with 2,000 new infections is a risky bet," said Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer-Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) defense minister and leader-on Monday.
"If we were at 1,000-or even better at 600 or 500-we could talk about loosening further as long as we stick to social distancing and use protective equipment," she said as she took delivery of 10 million masks that arrived in Leipzig by airplane.
As the number of new infections has fallen, many businesses have been allowed to reopen, like smaller stores or car dealerships, and some students are returning to schools.
Markus Soeder, Bavaria's prime minister, who imposed some of the most stringent social distancing measures, said his state was taking only small steps to ease the lockdown so as not to jeopardize early successes in disease fighting.
Soeder told BR radio that 80 percent of the retail industry is again open. "If this week it works out we can think of a further easing," he added.
Braun said authorities needed to consider that the magnitude of the outbreak varied from region to region.
"This could mean that after a period of easing, restrictions in certain regions have to be maintained or tightened up again," he said.
He added that the federal government would monitor whether it is necessary to adjust the measures taken and that authorities would have to weigh which measures effectively stop the spread of the virus and what social and economic costs it will bring.