So-called “non-essential” physical retail operations are re-opening in all the major European countries except in Germany. They are set to open again in France on May 19. They have been rising sharply in England and Wales since they were allowed to open again on April 12, partly hampered by bumpy weather conditions, without preventing further growth through the online channel.

Across the U.K., store traffic remains lower than at the same time in 2019, however, showing declines of 27.2 percent in the shopping malls and 45.6 percent in so-called “high street” locations, according to Ipsos. In Scotland, where the retail lockdown ended on April 26, the number of shoppers was down in the first week by only 6.2 percent as compared to the same period of 2019.

Non-essential stores are now open in most regions of Italy and Spain. In Germany, they remain closed to the general public, although they can welcome customers with a negative Covid test by appointment only in areas with the contamination level has been below the rate of 100 new cases per 100,000 residents for seven consecutive days. As of May 12, the infection rate was below this level in eight of the country’s 16 federal states.

Noting that two-thirds of the country’s apparel retailers are at risk of disappearing, leading to the closure of up to 120,000 stores after losing more than 40 percent of their turnover as compared to last year, the German Retail Federation (HDE) is asking for the immediate full re-opening of all the stores in view of a major decline in the contamination rate in recent days. The compulsory closure is costing the German retail industry up to €700 million in sales per day.

The German sporting goods retailers’ federation, VDS, has launched a joint social media campaign with other national retail trade associations under the hashtag #wiederôffnen (reopen), inviting their affiliated retailer to share it on their own social media channels. “We want to achieve that the customers recognize how happy we would be to open our stores for them,” says the VDS, pointing to scientific studies by the Robert Koch Institute and the Technical University of Berlin according to which very little risk of infection comes from entering a retail store.

Inconsistencies in Europe: Sweden has the highest contamination rate

The very strict attitude of the German government, as compared to the governments of the other major European countries, is in stark contrast with the contamination situation across Europe. The incidence of the virus over the seven days through May 10 was only 121.8 persons per 100,000 inhabitants in Germany, according to Statista, down from 152.1 a week earlier. coming after many other countries including Switzerland, which had a rate of 123.7.

The Covid-19 incidence rate in France was down to 186.1 on May 10 from 229.9 a week earlier. The rate was much higher in the Netherlands, which stood in third position on Statista’s European chart with 300.2 cases up from 266.3 cases a week earlier.

In the U.K., where the vaccination campaign has been particularly strong, the contamination rate stood at a level of only 22.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. It was also lower than in Germany in some countries that have been opening up because of their dependence on foreign tourism such as Italy (110.3) and Spain (92), with sharp declines from a week earlier. Zero cases were reported in the Vatican.

Interestingly, the highest incidence across Europe was found in Sweden, The Swedish contamination rate of 330.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is significant as it is one of the few European countries where non-essential retail stores and other facilities have been allowed to remain open most of the time since the beginning of the pandemic. Much lower contamination rates were traced in other Nordic countries were some restrictions have been imposed like Denmark (105.5), Norway (55.4), Russia (38.2) and Finland (27.0).