Merkel rejects calls for abolishing face mask requirement in shops

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected calls to do away with face mask requirement in shops across the country, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said.

“Wherever the minimum distance cannot be guaranteed in public life, masks are an important and, from today’s perspective, still indispensable means,” Xinhua news agency quoted Seibert as saying on Monday.

The wearing of masks is still necessary in order to “keep the number of infections low and to protect other people and ourselves”, he added.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs Harry Glawe has triggered a debate about abolishing the requirement to cover the mouth and nose in shops.

“If the incidence of infection remains so low, I see no reason to continue to make masks mandatory for retail,” Glawe told the German newspaper Welt on Sunday.

Other federal states in Germany are also considering the abolition of the face mask obligation in shops.

“We are currently looking into whether we can do without compulsory masks when shopping,” Saxony’s Social Affairs Minister Petra Koepping told the paper.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn called for caution on Sunday and warned that the coronavirus was still there.

However, he also said he understood “the impatience and the desire for normality”.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany increased by 219 within one day to 196,554, with 9,012 confirmed deaths on Monday.

Except for a few local outbreaks, such as at a German meat processing plant where more than 1,500 employees tested positive, the number of new cases has been on a steady decline.

With 48,744 cases, Bavaria is one of the most affected states in Germany, according to the RKI.

Last week, Bavaria was the first German state to approve free COVID-19 tests for all its 13 million inhabitants.

Bavaria’s Minister President Markus Soeder stressed on Monday that his state would “by no means relax or abolish the obligation to wear masks”.

Wearing a face mask is “one of the very few protective equipment” against the coronavirus, he said.