How are Germany’s 16 states dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?

How are Germany's 16 states dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?
A playground taped off in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: DPA
The German government issued country-wide restrictions this week to try and stem the coronavirus pandemic. However, individual states have some different measures. We take a look – and what you should consider if you need to travel within Germany.

Countrywide restrictions

In order to stall the spread of coronavirus, the government is trying to bring public life in Germany to a standstill.

On Monday the federal government agreed with the 16 states a set of widespread measures. The restrictions include a ban on religious services, while non-essential shops have to close.

Supermarkets, banks and pharmacies are among the shops allowed to stay open, while bars, clubs, swimming pools and cinemas have been told to close. Restaurants have to close by 6pm.

Schools and daycare centres also closed while events have been banned.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus restrictions: What's closed (and what's open) in Germany?

There are strict border controls with five countries and the EU has closed its borders to foreigners.

The government has repeatedly urged people to socially distance themselves from each other, stay at home as much as possible and not go on holiday.

As Germany is a federal country, power is devolved to the 16 states. So even though the agreement on the measures was made between the states and the government, there are some variations in the way each region is handling the pandemic.

Each state also has a different number of cases. Here's a breakdown.

Baden-Württemberg

Number of cases: around 2,200

The southern state is following the restrictions agreed by the government. 

For example, all museums, theatres, cinemas, swimming pools, fitness studios and libraries are closed.

All visits to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, dialysis facilities and day clinics are not allowed until further notice. 

Restaurants can remain open but are subject to conditions: there must be at least 1.5 metres distance between tables. They have to close by 6pm.

State authorities are warning that if measures are not followed a lockdown is possible.

Bavaria

Number of cases: around 2,300

Bavaria agreed on restrictions before the nationwide measures were announced, but they are largely the same.

The state is warning that a full lockdown will be imposed on residents if they do not comply with social distancing restrictions.

Two particularly badly affected areas of Bavaria – the villages of Mitterteich, in Tirschenreuth, which has 7,000 people and Wunsiedel, with a population of around 9,600, – have already instructed curfews on residents this week.

The District Office of Tirschenreuth was first to order a lockdown on the town of Mitterteich, which lasts until April 2nd, because of the spread of the coronavirus there.

There are 40 confirmed cases in the town, and seven patients require ventilators.

“We have a real emergency,” said Tirschenreuth district administrator Wolfgang Lippert, as the civil protection department drove through the town and told people to stay at home via a loudspeaker announcement. 

A total of 300 people are already in domestic quarantine there.

Bavaria is generally following nationwide restrictions however there are some variations. Restaurants and company canteens are allowed to remain open but only from 6am until 3pm.

A distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained between guests in the restaurants. A maximum of 30 people at one time can be in one venue. After 3pm it's only possible to take food away, or use a delivery service or drive-through.

The state government also this week imposed restrictions on visits to hospitals, old people's homes and nursing homes.

A 'corona break' sign in Emden, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

It has also declared a disaster situation with immediate effect to allow for the German army to be drafted in if needed and for hospital emergency contingency plans.

Berlin

Number of cases: around 570

Berlin announced measures on Friday that included orderings bars and club to close and banning all gatherings of more than 50 people. 

The state is largely following government restrictions. However, Berlin has opted to not make closing playgrounds compulsory. Some districts in Berlin are choosing to close playgrounds, though.

Police in the capital have urged residents not to report violations of the rules to the emergency number 110, but instead to report it online. 

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

Brandenburg

Number of cases: around 190

As well as nationwide restrictions which mean events with more than 1,000 participants are forbidden, in Brandenburg gatherings with 100 people or more must be reported to the local authorities.

Border restrictions introduced to slow down the coronavirus spread are causing problems in this state.

Poland has closed the border with Brandenburg to foreigners in order to slow down further spread of the coronavirus. This has resulted in major traffic problems and some disruption to communities, such as Frankfurt Oder, which is on the border with Poland. 

Border controls between Germany and Poland. Photo: DPA

Bremen and Lower Saxony

Bremen number of cases: around 80

Lower Saxony number of cases: around 750

Lower Saxony's state premier Stephan Weil and Bremen's Mayor Andreas Bovenschulte, both of the Social Democrats, presented the new guidelines for the states to deal with the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.

Following government recommendations, supermarkets and other essential shops will be permitted to stay open on Sundays.

DIY and garden centres, post offices, hairdressers, laundries, wholesalers, delivery and collection services will also remain open, in some cases under strict conditions with regard to queues and the number of customers in the store.

Restaurants and pubs must, however, close by 6pm, as per the nationwide instructions. “Social withdrawal is the order of the day, so that transmission routes are interrupted,” Bovenschulte said.

Overnight stays in hotels for tourists are no longer allowed.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Is Germany heading towards a full lockdown?

Hamburg

Number of cases: around 430

Hamburg, too, continues to restrict everyday life during the corona pandemic. After schools, day-care centres, theatres and museums, and most retail outlets have been closing their doors for now.

The ban on Sunday sales for essential shops has been lifted for the time being. Restaurants and pubs can only be open from 6am to 6pm and playgrounds should be closed, as per the nationwide measures.

A closed animal park in Bielefeld. Photo: DPA

Meanwhile, “all public and non-public events and assemblies are prohibited in principle, regardless of the number of participants,” the senate announced.

Hesse

Number of cases: around 680

Since Wednesday, bars, cinemas, discos and many shops have closed, under the advice of the government.

Banks, grocery stores, delivery services, pharmacies, medical supply stores and other shops of daily use are exempt from this regulation. In addition, the Sunday sales ban has also been lifted in Hesse meaning more stores can open on Sunday.

Tradespeople and other service providers can continue working under certain conditions.

The aim is to contain the spread of the virus as early as possible, said the CDU state premier Volker Bouffier.

Bouffier wants to avoid curfews if possible. This measure “is something I don't want to do at the moment”, he told the station Hit Radio FFH on Monday.

“The curfew is such a strong measure that, if possible, I want to prevent it. But I cannot guarantee that it will stay that way,” he said.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Number of cases: around 100.

In addition to schools, theatres and museums will also be closed from now on. Visiting bans apply to old people's and nursing homes and hospitals. Events with more than 50 participants are not allowed.

All German islands in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are closed to tourists. 

North Rhine-Westphalia

Number of cases: around 4,740

As The Local reported on March 9th, NRW is the worst hit German state when it comes to coronavirus.

The state government announced Thursday it is to provide €25 billion in economic aid to secure jobs in the region.

Since Sunday, almost all leisure, sports, entertainment and educational facilities in the state were stopped after an order by the NRW Health Ministry.

An empty high street in Emden, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

And since Monday, all bars, clubs, discos, amusement arcades, theatres, cinemas and museums have been closed. The same regulation applies to prostitution businesses, such as brothels.

There have been further restrictions on public life in line with the nationwide measures.

In NRW access to some centres such as shopping malls or factory outlets will only be permitted to meet urgent needs under strict conditions.

Libraries, restaurants, pubs and hotels are bound by strict conditions in their operations, which aim to prevent coronavirus from spreading.

Restaurants and hotels as well as libraries are now subject to a minimum distance of two metres between tables. In addition, hygiene rules must be posted and visitors must leave their contact details, Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said on Monday in Düsseldorf.

Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland

Rhineland-Palatinate number of cases: around 640

Saarland number of cases: around 170

Since Wednesday bars and discos as well as pubs, theatres and museums have been closed.

The measures also affect cinemas, leisure facilities, animal parks and amusement arcades. Restaurants and catering businesses may be open from 6am to 6pm, as per nationwide rules.

Grocery stores are allowed to be open until 10pm on weekdays and until 3pm on Sundays.

Roger Lewentz, Interior Minister, believes a general curfew to slow down the pandemic is not needed at the moment.

He said on Thursday in an interview with the Southwest Broadcasting Corporation (SWR) that it was first necessary to “bring to life” the very far-reaching measures already decided upon.

As well as following nationwide restrictions, larger family celebrations and gatherings are also not allowed.

Saxony

Number of cases: around 300

The state is following government guidelines, with bars, clubs, sports facilities, swimming pools and playgrounds all closed to the public.

The Sunday sales ban is also suspended until further notice meaning essential shops can open.

Saxony-Anhalt

Number of cases: around 150

Sports halls, swimming pools and other public facilities are all closed. Among others, the Naumburg Cathedral, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site, and the Halle State Museum of Prehistory, where the Nebra Sky Disk is on display, is also closed to visitors.

Due to the corona pandemic, the city of Halle has called in the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) to help. In addition, a hundred extra police officers were also called in.

On Tuesday, the city of Halle, like Bavaria, declared a ‘disaster’ situation. Wiegand said that this would allow more effective measures to be taken to contain the pandemic.

Schleswig-Holstein

Number of cases: around 250

Schleswig-Holstein has closed all North Sea and Baltic Sea islands as well as the Hallig islands to tourists.

Schleswig-Holstien closed to tourists. Photo: DPA

State premier Daniel Guenther, of the CDU, had asked holidaymakers to make their way home when the decision was announced at the start of the week.

The North Sea islands affected by the tourist ban include Sylt, Amrum and Föhr, the Nordstrand peninsula and the Halligen Hooge and Langeneß. In the Baltic Sea, the popular holiday island of Fehmarn is closed to tourists until further notice.

Thuringia

Number of cases: around 115

Among other measures, bars, clubs, family centres and cinemas closed on Wednesday.

Restaurants can only remain open if there is at least 1.5 meters distance between tables.

A ban on events with more than 50 participants is already in effect throughout the state. There are also strict regulations for events with fewer participants.

Visitors to hospitals and nursing homes will also be banned. Under certain conditions, a maximum of one visitor per patient per day is allowed – and only with protective measures and hygiene instructions. This will last initially up to and including April 19th.

READ ALSO: Germany plans €40 billion 'rescue package' for freelancers and small businesses

All gatherings in clubs, sports and leisure facilities are also banned. Exceptions are only possible for athletes training in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Travelling within Germany

On Tuesday, Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of the CSU ordered an entry ban for non-EU citizens. Within Germany, however, freedom of movement continues to apply – but there are restrictions.

Operator Deutsche Bahn will continue to maintain a train service, but it has scaled back its regional timetable to an “emergency plan”.

There will also be no ticket inspectors in a bid to protect their health.
 
The move was made to accommodate the large number of DB employees who need to stay home with their children, and due to the reduced number of customers using the service.

The current restrictions are listed on the Deutsche Bahn website.

There are also changes to local transport in some cities. 

Berlin, for example, is scaling back considerably. Underground trains run every ten minutes during the day instead of every five minutes. On the major bus lines vehicles will run every ten minutes, and the same applies to the tram.

Anyone travelling by car should expect traffic jams at the German borders.

At the border crossing Ludwigsdorf near Görlitz, traffic jams have increased considerably due to the Polish border controls.

On Wednesday trucks and cars on the A4 were stuck for more than 52 kilometrs, a spokesman for the Görlitz police said on Wednesday.
 


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