All German stores to reopen this week, with soccer to follow soon

A week or two ago, it looked like German soccer would resume this coming weekend. That was the plan, but it did not receive approval from the government.

Now, the government has approved a resumption of play in mid-May for Germany’s top two professional soccer league. Games will be played behind closed doors, with only around 300 people — players, coaches, referees, team officials and staff, broadcast crews — allowed in.

The decision follows the testing for the Wuhan coronavirus of 1,724 members of the 36 teams in Germany’s top two tiers. Only ten tested positive”. (No “herd immunity” in Germany.) The majority of the ten apparently have no symptoms. They will, of course, be kept in isolation.

Soccer authorities contend that without a May reopening, one-third of the teams in Germany’s top two soccer divisions will fail, notwithstanding the sport’s immense popularity. Maybe this is an exaggeration. However, it’s not unreasonable to fear that a high failure rate is in store for German businesses as a whole unless the general lockdown ends very soon.

Against this background, Germany today relaxed its lockdown following a teleconference between the state premiers and Angela Merkel. All restrictions on shop openings will be lifted, although masks must be worn and social distancing maintained. All students will be allowed to return to class, but only gradually.

Merkel reportedly was reluctant to agree to this degree of reopening. However, the regional premiers were insistent, with some announcing plans to relax restrictions even before the conference with Merkel began.

Merkel was able to obtain at least one concession from the regional premiers. They agreed to an emergency brake through which local authorities will reimpose restrictions if infections exceed a certain number in their area.

Germany was significantly less hard hit by the Wuhan coronavirus than the other four countries with great soccer leagues — Italy, Spain, England, and France. France has cancelled its soccer season. Italy, Spain, and England, all with more television revenue at stake, hope to resume in mid-June.

I doubt that these four countries will wait that long to reopen their economies as a whole, and it looks like they won’t. By not waiting that long, they will assume more health-related risk than Germany is taking, at least in the short term. However, the economic risk of waiting five or six more weeks to reopen seems unacceptable, even taking into account that the larger the health risk, the less business activity there will be following a reopening.

The same is true in the United States, I believe, even though the improvement in new case and daily death numbers lags well behind what Italy, Spain, and France are seeing.

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