German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday announced that COVID-19 restrictions in the country would be eased while minimum social distance and hygiene rules would continue to apply.

In a telephonic conversation with minister-presidents of federal states, Merkel said, “I think we can say that we have passed the first phase of the pandemic”.

The Chancellor said that the current figures released by Germany’s disease control agency RKI were “very pleasing” and German citizens had “lived responsibly and thus saved the lives of other people”, according to the repprts.

Merkel confirmed an “emergency mechanism” which would be triggered if more than 50 new infections over seven days per 100,000 inhabitants were locally detected in a certain region.

Regarding shops, the politicians said all could reopen but requirements “for hygiene, managing entry and avoiding queues forming” would be imposed.

A minimum distance of 1.5 metres and obligatory face masks in certain places such as public transport would continue to exist, and the contact restrictions in Germany would remain in force until June 5.

On Saturday, Merkel has called for global cooperation in developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

States will also have a free hand over whether to reopen restaurants beginning on May 9, as well as on decisions affecting theatres, concert halls, nightclubs and gyms.

Merkel also said the country wanted to work closely with the WHO, which has a key role in this issue.

The government also includes a general call for everyone to continue to maintain a safe distance from one another and wear masks in shops and on public transport.

On Monday, Lower Saxony became the first German state to present a step-by-step plan to ease restrictions.

The country has reported 168,162 COVID-19 cases so far, with 7,275 deaths.