BERLIN — To contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government and federal states of Germany have decided drastic restrictions on public life.
Starting Tuesday, all non-essential shops have to close. Essential businesses, such as banks, supermarkets, drugstores or pharmacies, will remain open. Additionally, the government is considering lifting the usual Sunday closure for those businesses.
In face of the commercial shutdown, Stefan Gent, director of the German Retail Federation, said the organization estimates daily losses of 1.5 billion euros for the non-food sector and warned of mass insolvencies:
“Industries like apparel, interior, consumer electronics, beauty and many others already lost half of their turnovers. Now, there will be an unstoppable total breakdown. There will be insolvencies in three to four weeks. If the shutdown will last eight weeks, retail won’t be able to cope with it,” he said in an interview with national newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday. The government and federal states have announced several billion-euro rescue packages — but the current subventions won’t suffice to save the German retail business, he added.
Germany has seen a gradual shutdown of public life because of the spread of the coronavirus in the past two weeks: Events and cultural institutions were postponed or canceled last week, kindergartens and schools were closed this week, religious gatherings and tourist services are now banned, restaurants are only allowed to open between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and most companies have shifted to home office. Major fairs, including Frankfurt interior fair Ambiente, the largest tourism fair ITB and Indie Beauty Expo in Berlin, were called off. Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leading politicians repeatedly called for social distancing and solidarity among the population. The federal state of Bavaria was the first to declare disaster status since Monday.
Shortly after the World Health Organization declared Europe the new center of COVID-19, the European Union revealed the closure of its borders for 30 days. Germany started conducting inner-European border controls to neighboring countries like Austria, Switzerland and France. As of Tuesday afternoon, the country has registered almost 8,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus with 20 casualties and 67 recoveries.