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Berlin to order 15 km movement restriction rule amid rising Covid-19 cases

Berlin has decided to introduce a rule that restricts residents from travelling more than a 15 kilometre radius - if the number of cases keeps going up.

Berlin to order 15 km movement restriction rule amid rising Covid-19 cases
A Berlin sign on the border with Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

The capital has become the latest area in Germany to introduce a restriction on movement if the seven day incidence (the number of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days) climbs above 200.

The state government decided on Tuesday that from a seven-day incidence of 200, a radius of 15 km will be drawn around the city limits.

The new regulation will come into force on Saturday.

According to the latest data from Tuesday, the incidence in Berlin, i.e. the number of registered new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within one week, was 199.9 – just below the threshold of 200.

But it's very close so the rule could be in force at the weekend unless the number drops.

READ ALSO: 15 km rule: Which areas of Germany are affected by new movement restrictions?

What does this actually mean for Berliners?

Residents of the capital would then only be allowed to leave the city for valid reasons, such as travelling to work or to the doctor.

Air travel would also no longer be possible.

Longer train journeys or car trips would also no longer be allowed under the 15 km rule. Berliners would still be allowed to travel as far as places like Potsdam, Bernau or Falkensee, but not to Rheinsberg, the Oderbruch or the Spreewald.

The rule is defined by anywhere within 15 km of the borders of Berlin, so someone living in the north of the city could still travel to Potsdam, for example, even though it's a distance of more than 15 km.

If the 15-kilometre rule comes into force, it will only be lifted again if the incidence in Berlin falls below 200 for seven days in a row, Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz, of the Social Democrats said, reported RBB on Tuesday.

Kollatz confirmed that there would be exceptions to the rule, such as visiting hospital or court.  There will also be exceptions for official appointments or caring for relatives.

Berliners are also allowed to visit rented or leased property or residential property beyond the 15 km radius – as far as the rules of other federal states allow.

The tweet below by broadcaster RBB sums up the new rules in Berlin.

Is visiting family or doing sports allowed?

No. Visits to relatives such as parents, grandparents or children is not allowed (unless it's for caring purposes).

Going to church or religious events and doing sports or exercise is also not permitted under the rule.

Shopping would also not be a reason to leave the radius.

In the case of looking after animals – some people may have horses for example – this would have to be clarified in each individual case, Kollatz said.

“The goal of all that we are doing is to reduce the number of travel movements and contacts,” Kollatz emphasised.

Later, economics minister Ramona Pop (Greens) expressed a similar opinion on broadcaster RBB.

The 15-kilometre rule is a measure to reduce mobility, she said on the evening show on Tuesday. In addition, she said, the federal states had agreed to adopt rules that were as uniform as possible.

READ ALSO:

Fines for violations

Politicians in both Brandenburg and Berlin will discuss how to conduct checks. According to Kollatz, it will involve spot checks and “punishing obvious violations”.

Should the rule come into effect in the capital, Brandenburg police officers will stop Berlin drivers who are found outside the radius to ask for valid reasons of their trip.

“If these cannot be given, the officers will take down the personal data and pass it on to the responsible authorities,” explained a spokesperson for the Brandenburg police headquarters.

The same procedure will follow for Brandenburg citizens who are found far outside their radius. The 15 km rule has been in force in Brandenburg since last Saturday.

There will be fines for violations of the rule, Kollatz said but did not comment on the amount they would be.

Opposition parties, including Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Free Democrats (FDP) have slammed the move. They say contacts that should be reduced, not the distance that people travel.

Change to contact rules

Berlin has also amended its contact rules. At the moment (until at least the end of January) private gatherings are only allowed among members of your own household and with a maximum of one other person not living in the household.

If a person is a single parent, their children (under 12) are not counted in the rule.

Now the Berlin Senate has agreed on another exception. Children under 12 from a maximum of two fixed households can be cared for alternatively by the adults from the two households (this creates a 'social bubble').

The decision is to allow for more community childcare and to relieve emergency care set up in Kindergartens. 

Member comments

  1. “According to the latest data from Tuesday, the incidence in Berlin, i.e. the number of registered new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within one week, was 199.9 – just below the threshold of 200“
    How ridiculous! 199.9. Was 1 person not fully counted? How do they come up with these bogus figures!

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COVID-19 RULES

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”

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