'Punish the unreasonable': North Rhine-Westphalia introduces steep coronavirus lockdown fines

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 24 Mar, 2020 Updated Tue 24 Mar 2020 13:12 CEST
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Residents in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia face paying up to €25,000 if they flout coronavirus restrictions.

The state, which is the most populous in Germany, has become the first in the country to draw up a catalogue of fines for violations of the 'ban on contact' aimed at easing the coronavirus pandemic.

Police can impose fines on people who gather in public, have picnics, hold sporting events – and for unauthorised visits to nursing homes, reported the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. As of Tuesday afternoon there were more than 8,700 confirmed cases and 45 people have died. In total across Germany there are more than 30,300 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The new measures, which were introduced on Sunday and will last initially for two weeks, include a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public (excluding families) and a minimum distance of at least 1.5 metres must be maintained from others where possible.

As Germany is a federal country, the measures – and how they are enforced – can vary between individual states.

READ ALSO: Germany bans gatherings of more than two to control coronavirus spread

'Harsh punishments'

According to the rules, if more than two people meet in public who are not related, they could each be slapped with a €200 fine.

People who are caught violating a visitation ban – for example to a retirement home or hospital – will have to pay a fine of €200.

These rates apply for a first offence but for serious cases they can be doubled. Repeat offenders face paying up to €25,000.

Forbidden picnics could cost €250 per person, while those who organize sporting events face paying €1,000.

Meanwhile, people who eat takeaway food closer than 50m to the restaurant or snack bar might have to pay €200 if caught.

And people who gather in groups of more than 10 can even face being prosecuted under a criminal offense, according to the decree published on Tuesday.

"These are harsh punishments," said interior minister Herbert Reul.

NRW authorities said local public order offices and the police would enforce the measures with a sense of proportion, but would not shy away from imposing fines if needed.

"The situation is serious," NRW state premier Armin Laschet said. "It is a matter of life and death. The strict ban on contact will certainly help to quickly reduce the risk of infection."

Additional fines could be imposed on companies which profit from violations.

Laschet said: "Fortunately most people stick to the rules and show solidarity. We must not monitor the reasonable, but punish the unreasonable. And we must do so consistently and severely. The signals must get through."

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


Fine - (das) Bußgeld

Ban on contact - (das) Kontaktverbot

Old people's home/nursing home - (das) Altenheim

Violation/breach - (der) Verstoß

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The Local 2020/03/24 13:12

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