The lockdown has been with us for quite a while. These are difficult times for retailers. Some large chains have already announced branch closings or have withdrawn completely from the market. Industry giants such as H&M and Zara are also struggling. That is why the demand for relaxation is increasing. But how likely is it that retail will be able to reopen after February 14 and under what conditions would that be possible?
Angela Merkel is a clear advocate of the strict lockdown. She has already indicated several times that she does not consider easing to be realistic until shortly before Easter. Rather, she is considering further tightening. The main reason for the crackdown are virus mutations such as those from Great Britain, Brazil or South Africa, which are often considered to be much more contagious. But Merkel has many opponents, including within her own ranks. While Merkel and other politicians such as Armin Laschet or Markus Söder consider opening discussions to be fundamentally wrong, others are at least calling for an agreement on a uniform opening strategy now.
Economy calls for easing
Many important business and trade representatives are also calling for a precise timetable for easing. "The point is to specify which pandemic numbers can be relaxed and which ones. We cannot stumble from one lockdown to the next, ”explained Stefan Genth, head of the German Trade Association, to the Augsburger Allgemeine. Individual federal states are setting an example here. The Schleswig-Holstein government under Prime Minister Daniel Günther recently presented a four-stage plan for openings. But even after this, it should look bad for the retail sector at first. According to this draft, this should only open when the corona incidence value has remained stable below 50 for seven days. That should be unlikely in many regions until February 14th.
In addition, Günther emphasized that one hopes for nationwide regulations. Since the incidence values are very different in many federal states and also in individual districts, it is quite possible that, as after the first lockdown in spring, there will soon be a patchwork quilt and different regulations apply everywhere. It is therefore rather unlikely that retailers across Germany will be able to reopen on February 14th, but this could happen in individual regions.
Are small shops allowed to reopen first?
It is also unclear under which conditions shops are allowed to reopen. Even after the first lockdown was lifted, retailers came up with effective hygiene concepts. The permitted number of customers per square meter of sales area could also be specified by the government again.
After the first lockdown last spring, only shops with a sales area of less than 800 m² were initially allowed to open. A measure that has been criticized many times because this limit was perceived as arbitrary. According to the federal and state governments, it should serve to ensure that not all shops open at once in the city centers and that long queues and crowds form in the streets. However, it is currently rather unlikely that such a regulation will be resolved again.