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Everything that changes in May 2020 in Germany

Whether it's businesses reopening, wages rising in some fields and a new public holiday in Berlin, there's a lot changing in May 2020 - and not all of it coronavirus related.

Everything that changes in May 2020 in Germany
A clock in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

Over the last couple of months in Germany, we've grown accustomed to seeing big societal shifts every week – whether coronavirus restrictions getting tightened or loosened, or extra financial help coming through for those most affected.

We break down some of the top coronavirus measures that have already been announced for May, followed by 'non-corona' changes – such as wage increases and a new public holiday on May 8th – which had already been planned long before the days when “social distancing” was a household term.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

What's changing due to the coronavirus?

Hair salons can open again

Feeling in need of a good trim on that overgrown fringe? Hair salons around Germany can open again on May 4th – as long as they observe strict safety precautions. For example, both hairdressers and customers must wear mouth and nose coverings.

As this involves additional time and expense for protective clothing, prices are likely to rise.

A closed hair salon in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

Relaxation of other rules

Germany-wide social distancing measures are to be extended until May 10th, putting a ban on more than two people who aren’t part of the same family or household being outside together at the same time. 

However, throughout Germany other measures are being relaxed at different timelines, with museums, botanical gardens, zoos and other public institutions poised to reopen soon.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Germany poised to reopen religious buildings, museums and playgrounds

Here's a timeline of what we already know is reopening, state by state.

Restaurants and hotels want to resume operations between the middle and end of May, but this has not yet been decided.

For the time being, however, there will be no relaxation for travel outside Germany. The Foreign Office has extended the worldwide travel warning until mid-June.

READ ALSO: Germany extends worldwide tourist travel-warning until mid-June

Students head back to the classroom

Starting at the beginning of May, some students will be able to go back to school. Regular classes will start gradually, so that all grades don’t return at once. Most of the states plan to partially open schools on May 4th. 

READ ALSO: State by state: When (and how) will Germany's schools reopen?

At the moment, Kitas (day care centres) are also closed, although federal and state governments have presented a four-step plan which lays out how to “cautiously” reopen them. For example, only emergency care to parents who most need it will be included in the first part.

A high school student in North Rhine-Westphalia was ready to head back to school with a face mask. Photo: DPA

Deutsche Bahn divvies out vouchers

Those who had planned – but no longer want to take – a train journey over the coming long weekend can exchange their ticket for a voucher.

This applies to long-distance tickets from Deutsche Bahn (DB) with a travel date up until May 4th, which were purchased up to March 13th. The vouchers are available online and are valid for three years. 

For long-distance journeys taking place after May 4th, customers can now use their tickets flexibly until October 31st – provided they were purchased before March 13th. Previously, DB accepted these tickets just until June 30th. This regulation also applies to economy and super saver tickets.

Help for students

Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) wants to help students through the corona crisis with emergency loans. Starting May 8th, students can apply for an initially interest-free loan of up to 650 per month from the state development bank KfW. 

Both current KfW student loans and new applications will remain interest-free for domestic students until the end of March next year. Foreign students can obtain the loan from July onwards. Find out more and how to apply here.

A less taxing process

Anyone who has their tax return processed by a wage tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein) or tax consultant now has a longer time: the tax offices are now retrospectively offering an extension from February 29th to May 31st for 2018 taxes – without stating or checking reasons.

The regular deadline for submitting the 2018 income tax return would have been February 29th, 2020. If late surcharges had already been applied, these will be returned.

READ ALSO: From visas to taxes: These German deadlines have been extended due to the coronavirus

Good news for Kurzarbeiter

For anyone officially placed on shorter working hours (a system known as Kurzarbeit) who earns a little extra on the side, the regulations on additional income opportunities will be relaxed from May 1st until the end of 2020. 

Up until now, anyone who took up a new part-time job during short-time work had this additional income credited in full against the short-time allowance. 

However, in the wake of the Corona crisis, the German government is now temporarily waiving this regulation. With immediate effect, short-time workers have the opportunity to earn additional money without it affecting the allowance.

Non-coronavirus changes

Cheaper parcel prices

Sending parcels is becoming cheaper again. After the parcel service DHL had increased its prices in January, the Federal Network Agency made a successful complaint that the prices had gone up too high.

Now, for example, a medium-sized parcel (up to two kilograms) costs 4.50 instead of 4.79. The shipping of a 10-kilo parcel drops by a whole euro to 9.49.

Ban on menthol cigarettes

Starting on May 21st, menthol cigarettes may no longer be sold in Germany. According to a new EU-wide tobacco product directive, tobacco-products are not allowed to mask the taste of tobacco.

Wage raise in Germany’s care sector

From May 1st onward, minimum wages in nursing care for the elderly and outpatients will be introduced throughout the industry for the first time. The minimum wages for nursing assistants will be increasing in four stages up until April 1st, 2022 to 12.55 per hour, equalizing the pay in both east and west Germany.

A nurse in Essen preparing a coronavirus test on January 31st. Photo: DPA

“Liberation Day”: Berlin receives an extra public holiday

In Berlin, “Tag der Befreiung” will be celebrated as a day off from work for the first time. On May 8th, the 75 anniversary of the liberation from National Socialism and the end of the Second World War is being commemorated. 

In other European countries such as France, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, “Liberation Day” is already a public holiday.

In addition, Germany has two public holidays in May, both which are celebrated Germany-wide:

-Labour Day on May 1st (Friday).

-Ascension Day on May 21st (Thursday).

READ ALSO: What and when are Germany’s 2020 public holidays?

Increase of the minimum wage for painters, varnishers and stonemasons

There will also be a rise in wages in the craft traded. Painters and varnishers who have not yet been trained will receive at least 11.10 per hour from May 1st instead of 10.85 per hour before. Those with training will receive a minimum wage of 13.50.

Stonemasons and sculptors can also look forward to an increase in the minimum wage. Instead of the previous 11.85, they will now receive 12.20 per hour.

Stricter road regulations

Since April 28th, much stricter rules for both drivers and cyclists have been in force. For example, driving licences will be confiscated for a month if the speed limit is exceeded by 21 kilometres per hour within cities.

 

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HEALTH

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Seasonal flu vaccines, Covid boosters, and the monkeypox vaccine are recommended for risk groups in Germany as it gets colder. Here’s what you need to know.

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Flu cases are way up in Germany this year – back to over 22,000 nationwide so far, and those are just the laboratory-confirmed ones. With many Covid-19 restrictions also having slowed the spread of flu in 2020 and 2021, German doctors are particularly encouraging at-risk groups to get this year’s flu vaccine.

Who?

In principle, anyone in Germany can speak to their doctor and get the flu vaccine. However, it is recommended particularly for certain at-risk groups.

According to the German Robert Kock Institute (RKI), which advises the government on viruses, these groups include:

  • anyone over the age of 60
  • pregnant women from their second trimester
  • people with chronic underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, or various heart conditions
  • People who live or work in care homes
  • Medical personnel
  • People who work in areas with particularly high amounts of traffic. These could include schools or Kitas, for example
  • People who live with or care for someone from one of these groups

When?

Flu season’s peak is normally expected in January. That’s why doctors advise you to have your protection in place before then. So the best time to get vaccinated for the flu is between October and December.

With the vaccine taking about 10-14 days to kick in, doctors advise making sure you have the shot by mid-December, so that when the season peaks in January, your body is prepared to fight off the virus if you come in contact with it.

Where?

The easiest place to get a flu vaccine is at your doctor’s office. However, some health authorities run public vaccination campaigns, depending on your federal state. Some workplaces may also administer flu shots on site once a year.

For the first time this season though, pharmacies in Germany will be able to administer a flu shot to any adult with statutory health insurance. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they do it.

Can I get the flu shot at the same time as my Covid-19 booster shot?

In most cases, there are no restrictions on getting the flu shot and a Covid booster at the same time. Most flu vaccines given in Germany are inactivated viruses, which can be administered simultaneously with a flu shot. You don’t have to wait between getting one shot and getting the other.

If giving it you at the same time, your doctor will likely use both arms – one for each vaccine.

READ ALSO: What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

What about Monkeypox?

Germany has now seen its total number of reported monkeypox cases hit 3,656—with around half of all cases being reported in Berlin. With more and more people getting vaccinated though, the seven-day average of new infections has slowed from a peak of 71 per day in mid-July to less than one a day in October.

That’s far less than the US rate of 105 a day or even Spain at just over four a day.

The vast majority of cases worldwide and in Germany have been detected in gay and bisexual men, whom German health authorities are still advising to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

Other risk groups include people who work in certain laboratories where they might become exposed, and people who have already potentially been exposed.

Someone who suspects they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox is advised to get a vaccine shot within four days.

READ ALSO: Who can get the monkeypox vaccine in Germany – and how?

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