Germany is easing lockdowns in one of two districts in the west of the country where restrictions had been introduced after a significant cluster of new infections of the coronavirus.
“We will not extend the lockdown measures in the district of Warendorf. They come to an end on 30 June,” the leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, said at a news conference on Monday in Dusseldorf, capital of the densely populated state.
The lockdown covers around 280,000 people.
In contrast, the neighbouring district of Gütersloh, home to some 360,000 people and also placed under restrictions last week, will remain on lockdown for a further week until at least July 7 “as a precaution”, Laschet said.
The conservative leader, a potential successor to Angela Merkel and who is seeking the presidency of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), insisted that contagion in the region was under control.
The local lockdown, which nonetheless does not oblige people to stay at home, was announced last Tuesday to try to contain the spread of the virus which had affected more than 1,550 people — for the most part employees at one of Europe’s main abattoirs, operated by the Tönnies company.
It was a first for Germany, which has been relatively spared by the COVID-19 pandemic until now and was one of the first European countries to begin a gradual easing of lockdown measures in May.
According to Laschet, few people beyond those working in the abattoir have been infected by the virus in the district of Gütersloh and none in Warendorf.
The partial reimposition of local lockdown measures had caused concern in Germany and abroad. Austria, where many Germans spend their holidays, even said on Sunday that it was going to oblige residents of the Gütersloh district to produce a negative coronavirus test in order to enter the country.
As of Monday the new coronavirus had infected 193,761 people in Germany, of whom 8,961 had died, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).