What are Germany’s current coronavirus rules and what could be eased soon?

What are Germany's current coronavirus rules and what could be eased soon?
Tables outside of a currently-closed restaurant in Speyer, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: DPA
On Wednesday Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Germany’s state premiers will gather again to discuss easing corona restrictions.

Calls for relaxing the measures have become increasingly louder, largely from the business community, but also states such as Lower Saxony, Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which have already rolled out plans to reopen the tourism industry.

READ ALSO: Snubbing Merkel pleas, German states ease coronavirus curbs further

Yet even if there is a countrywide decision on Wednesday, there can and will be different regulations in individual states. Here’s what we know about Germany as a whole so far. 

What will be some of the main topics discussed on Wednesday?

Many pupils around Germany have already returned to the classroom, but Kitas (daycare centres) are currently only offering emergency care.

Gymnasium students back in the classroom in Rostock. Photo: DPA

On May 6th, the talks will focus on plans for how to gradually reopen all schools and Kitas.

The government will also be discussing if, and when, restaurants and cafes should be allowed to reopen around the country, and under what conditions. Lower Saxony is already planning to reopen restaurants, under strict hygiene measures, on Monday, May 11th, and Bavaria will follow suit on May 18th.

Other states such as Berlin have laid out plans, which include maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres and ensuring that the servers wear masks.

Germany’s Bundesliga is hoping for a decision on whether so-called ghost games, or matches without spectators, will be allowed again. 

The discussion about allowing outdoor athletic activities, which sports ministers have deemed as “urgently necessary”, will also be on the table. According to them, sports and training could be permitted again if, as a first step they are only allowed in the “fresh air” in public spaces, or on public or private open-air sports facilities.

This would include compliance with distance and contact rules as well as hygiene and disinfection measures, especially in the shared use of sports equipment.

A decision is expected on how intensive care beds reserved in hospitals for corona patients could be released for other patients.

Health Minister Jens Spahn recommended that states keep less capacity free for coronavirus patients from May onward.

Hospitals had observed with concern that there have been fewer patients with heart attacks or strokes, for example, suggesting that people are staying away from hospitals, even if they need care.

What rules are currently in effect?

-Many playgrounds are open again, in some states children have to wait a few more days.

Church services are again possible under certain conditions. This also applies to baptisms, circumcisions, weddings and funeral services in small groups, with a number that varies state by states.

A church on Tuesday in Wiblingen, Baden-Württemberg, which has sealed off part of its seating area to allow more space between churchgoers. Photo: DPA

Museums, exhibitions, memorials, zoos and botanical gardens can reopen under social distancing and hygiene measures.

Hairdressers can open again with restrictions such as ensuring that both the customer and hair dresser wear a face masks. 

-Throughout Germany, masks must be worn when shopping and on public transport. However, only some states are enforcing fines, while others such as Berlin are relying on voluntary participation. Several stores, however, will not permit shoppers inside without a mask. 

READ ALSO: Explained: Do you have to wear a face mask in Germany?

Smaller shops are open; A 800 square metre limit originally went into effect in all states on April 20th, but this is no longer the case in every state. 

Large events such as public festivals, major concerts or trade fairs remain prohibited until at least August 31st. This means large trade fairs, concerts and football matches with an audience are off the cards, because they are particularly dangerous for spreading the virus. 

It's unclear whether this ban will be extended at this stage.

Various states have already cancelled major events, including those starting in September, such as the Oktoberfest in Munich or the marathon in Berlin.

It's considered possible that there could be more concrete limitations to the term “big event” – for example, the question arises as to whether large private wedding celebrations are covered by it.

Bars, pubs and clubs remain closed.

– For restaurants, only takeaway sales have been permitted so far, although some relaxation has already been announced at state level.

Hotels and holiday homes are generally closed to guests, but states such as Lower Saxony are drafting plans to open tourism facilities as early as May.

Beach chairs in Cuxhaven, Lower Saxony, where it will soon be possible to go on holiday again. Photo: DPA

-Employees with cold or flu symptoms can get a doctor's note by telephone until at least May 18th

– Until at least May 10th, it is permitted to stay in public places either only with members of one's own household or with one other person. A distance of at least 1.5 metres must be maintained to people who do not live in their own household. 

Some states already have less strict restrictions in force. In eastern Saxony-Anhalt, for example, up to five people are allowed to meet instead of two. In Saxony, a family or shared flat (WG) is allowed to meet with another couple people. 

– Travelling to relatives should continue to be avoided. For trips abroad, the worldwide travel warning is in place until at least mid-June.

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


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