April 28, 2020 / 9:42 AM / a month ago

German retailers seek full reopening from May 4

FILE PHOTO: People stroll at a shopping mall, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Cologne, Germany, April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - German retailers sought on Tuesday to persuade the government to let all stores operate normally from May 4, saying customers had not stormed back into the smaller shops that were allowed to reopen last week and were behaving prudently.

Stores of up to 800 square metres (8,600 square feet) were allowed to open again last week, along with car and bicycle dealers and bookstores, provided they adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene rules.

The national retailers association (HDE) has criticised the decision to only allow smaller stores to open, calling the move unfair for bigger chains, confusing for customers and saying both large and small shops were capable of respecting the rules.

“The reopening of stores with up to 800 square metres of sales area has been very responsible throughout,” HDE Chief Executive Stefan Genth said in a statement.

“There was no rush of customers to the stores, the customers are behaving calmly and risk-consciously.”

Germany’s lockdown took effect on March 17 and the government says social distancing rules will remain in force until at least May 3.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is worried that Germans are relaxing their social distancing efforts already and is resisting pressure from some regional states to press ahead with a further easing of restrictions.

The HDE called for nationwide rules instead of different regulations in different parts of the country, including on the issue of whether customers must wear face masks while shopping, adding that it should not be up to stores to uphold those rules.

“Retailers are not a substitute police force. The enforcement of the mask obligation is up to the state,” Genth said.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Michelle Martin

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