Coronavirus: Berlin orders closure of bars, museums and gyms

Berlin's government has ordered bars, clubs, cinemas and sports facilities to close as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Coronavirus: Berlin orders closure of bars, museums and gyms
Archive photo shows a dog in a Berlin bar. Photo: DPA

The capital's mayor Michael Müller announced at a press conference on Friday March 13th that all clubs, bars and pubs (known as Kneipen) would have to close up to and including April 19th.

Restaurants can remain open for the time being but tables have to be at least 1.5 metres apart under the regulations.

Initially the order was to kick in next week. But on Saturday the local government announced the closures would take place with immediate effect.

Cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums, betting shops, amusement arcades and brothels are also no longer allowed to open. Sports activities in public and private facilities are also banned. Swimming pools and fitness studios must therefore close their doors.

In addition, patients in hospitals are no longer allowed to receive visitors – with the exception of those under 16 and the seriously ill.

Events or gatherings with more than 50 people are also not allowed.

The new regulations fall under the Infection Protection Act.

There are currently 216 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Berlin, and more than 4,525 throughout Germany.

On Friday, Berlin, along with other German states, announced that schools and daycare centres (Kitas) for children would be closed from Monday March 16th until after the Easter holidays on April 20th.

Meanwhile, public transport in Berlin is also to be drastically cut back.

'Your safety and health are at stake'

The Berlin Senate has decided on these extra restrictions to public life in the fight to stall the spread of coronavirus.

Müller appealed to residents to behave responsibly.

Müller said: “I ask all Berliners for their understanding. Your safety and your health are at stake.”

He said the number of social interactions in the city had to be reduced to “the absolute minimum”.

“Everyone will feel restrictions,” he said. “But this phase is very important. I ask for solidarity, especially towards elderly people.”

Events with more than a thousand people have already been banned in the capital. It's resulted in the closures of theatres, concert halls, museums – and even the famous Berghain club.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus – these are the measures in Germany you need to know about

The well-known flea market at Mauerpark will also remain closed until April 19th, according to a notice on the website.

Other services, such as the Foreigner's Office, will only be accessible with an appointment

Public transport in Berlin to continue as much as possible

Meanwhile, Berlin's public transport system, which is run by operator BVG, will continue as much as possible without restrictions, the operator BVG said.

The Berlin Senate Chancellery had initially said on Friday that local public transport would be drastically scaled back.

But it has now been clarified that public transportation will be maintained as long as possible.

However, the BVG has not ruled future restrictions. And it is to be adapted to public demand as more people stay at home so check for updates on the BVG site.

READ ALSO: Merkel calls for social contact 'to be avoided where possible'

Passengers are being asked to enter the buses in the back door rather than the front to minimise the risk to drivers..

Bundesliga on pause

The German football league on Friday halted first division Bundesliga games with immediate effect over the coronavirus pandemic, the first such suspension since World War II, reported AFP.

“Given the developments of today with new coronavirus infections and suspected cases directly linked to the Bundesliga and the 2nd division, the German Football League has decided at short notice to postpone today's matches,” said the league in a statement.

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

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.