Car park prayers to noodle hats: How Germany is social distancing

Germany is turning to creative ways to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Here's what it looks like.

Car park prayers to noodle hats: How Germany is social distancing
An Ikea car park is used for an Eid prayer in Wetzler, near Frankfurt. Photo: IGMG/DPA

How do you ensure social distancing at events such as theatre shows or football matches? Or even in schools, restaurants or during religious gatherings?

As the lockdown restrictions continue to ease, people across Germany are getting creative to ensure there's enough distance to keep the number of coronavirus infections at bay.

Here are some pictures that show how they are doing it. All photos unless otherwise stated are by DPA.

Removing seats

At theatre company the Berliner Ensemble, bosses decided to rebuild the auditorium so they can ensure distance when they are allowed to reopen.

“We absolutely want to play again, this is our mission,” Oliver Reese, artistic director told The Local.

The plans for the next season had to be completely rethought and organized in the past weeks. But we have succeeded, in close cooperation with the artistic teams and also with our ensemble, in playfully developing new visions for this coming, extraordinary season.”

They're also thinking about how social distancing can work on stage.

“We want to see the restrictions imposed by corona as a common challenge: how do we define encounter – between the actors, but also with the audience?” Reese said. 

“Does closeness on stage always require touch? It is already clear that certain productions will not be possible under the changed circumstances. But numerous artists have developed a great desire to search for these new signs in our upcoming premieres.”

The Berliner Ensemble is set to open in September.

Car park used for prayers

In Wetzler, near Frankfurt in the central German state of Hesse, hundreds of Muslims gathered together – but with distance – for an Eid prayer in the car park of a branch of Ikea.

Around 800 Muslims prayed in the large outdoor space to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday May 24th.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Which restrictions are changing from Monday May 25th?

Places of worship have reopened in Germany but they must follow rules to curb the spread of coronavirus.


A church service in the Berliner Dom

Pool noodles to ensure distance

The Cafe Roth in Schwerin, in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, celebrated its reopening recently by giving customers pool noodles to wear on their head in a bid to show social distancing in action.

The stunt gained worldwide attention, making the news across the world.

Bears lend a helping hand

Teddy bears have been placed at tables in the dining room of the Hofheim restaurant “Beef'n Beer” in the central state of Hesse, in order to guarantee the minimum distance between guests.

They do make cute dinner guests.

No fans at football matches

This is what Bundesliga games in Germany look like at the moment – empty stadiums. This was the scene at the RB Leipzig – Hertha BSC match on May 27th in the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.

The sign above says 'keep your distance'.

And when journalists cover the games, they have to sit far apart, shown here at the FC Union Berlin – 1. FSV Mainz game on May 27th.

Spaced out desks

When it comes to exams, pupils at schools have to have plenty more space. This is a view of the Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium in Ravensburg, Baden-Württemberg on May 20th. 

Free tables and signs

At restaurants and cafes some tables must remain free to ensure distance, such as this one at a hotel restaurant in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Plexiglass aplenty

Is this the future of cinemas? Plexiglass has been installed between the seats of the Cineplex Alhambra in Berlin to ensure social distancing.

Cinemas in Berlin don't have an opening date yet.

READ ALSO: How cinemas in Germany plan to reopen

Blocked out seats

Some seats can be blocked off on trains, like this one in Frankfurt, to ensure social distancing.



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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”