The city of Jena in eastern Germany has decided to make people wear face masks when shopping or travelling on public transport, stepping up efforts to curb coronavirus contagion and becoming the first city in the country to introduce the measure.
For the last two weeks, states around Germany have closed schools, restaurants, bars and banned public gatherings as they try to tackle the outbreak, but the number of cases and deaths is still rising fast.
Jena, which has 119 coronavirus infections and an overall population of about 110,000, decided to follow the example of Austria which on Monday said it was requiring shoppers to wear masks in supermarkets.
“In a week’s time, wearing mouth and nose protection in shops in Jena, on public transport and buildings with public traffic will be compulsory,“ Jena City Hall said in a statement.
With Germany’s council of economic advisers warning the virus could cause a 5.4 percent contraction in the economy this year, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has announced a stimulus package worth more than 750 billion euros ($821.93 billion) to cushion the blow.
To avoid a spike in unemployment, the government is extending a short-time work scheme which lets firms cut workers’ hours while keeping them on the payroll. The Labour Office said some 470,000 firms had already applied for the state aid.
RKI President Wieler said he was optimistic the measures Germany had taken to contain the coronavirus pandemic were working and the situation would become clearer after Easter.