Older students might be allowed back to school in May but that will be contingent on a radically changed setup involving small groups, face masks and social distancing rules for school buses.
Every two weeks the government will take stock of infection numbers, Ms. Merkel said, to evaluate in real time the impact of each incremental measure that is lifted — and to avoid the danger of infections picking up pace again.
“We can’t have a wrongheaded push forward, even when the best intentions are behind it,” Ms. Merkel said. “We need to understand that we need to live with this virus as long as there is no vaccine and no treatment.”
Germany was hit hard by the pandemic but reacted quickly and decisively in trying to slow the spread of the virus.
A month ago, when the number of deaths stood at 90, Ms. Merkel’s government imposed strict social distancing rules that banned groups of more than two people of different households from gathering, and that shut down much of the economy.
By Wednesday, the number of infections in Germany stood at 136,616, the third-highest toll in Europe, after Spain and Italy. But the number of new daily infections has tapered off and the number of deaths, now at 3,428, has remained low compared with other countries.