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Coronavirus: Berlin plans hefty fines for people caught outside ‘with no good reason’

The local government in Berlin is drawing up new fine regulations in a bid to crack down on people who flout restrictions aimed at slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus: Berlin plans hefty fines for people caught outside 'with no good reason'
Police patrolling Mauer Park in Berlin on Saturday. Photo: DPA

According to regional newspaper the Tagesspiegel, the Berlin Senate is currently working out the details on the new catalogue of fines.

A strict ban on contact has been in effect in Berlin for just over a week. 

It means that people must stay at home and only go outside when it is necessary, such as to get essential shopping, visit the doctor, carry out essential work or exercise. For a more detailed look at the rules check out our story here.

Police have been monitoring the situation and writing up dozens of reports every day on people who are not sticking to the ban. However, so far, the Senate has not agreed on specific fine regulations, although a draft has reportedly been under discussion.

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On Monday March 30th, Berlin’s interior senator Andreas Geisel of the Social Democrats (SPD) said the Senate will debate and possibly decide on a list of fines for violations of coronavirus rules on Tuesday.

Last week the state of North Rhine-Westphalia decided on a strict catalogue of fines to enforce the ban on contact. People who have picnics could now face €250 (per person), while those who organize sporting events face paying €1,000.

Other states, such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate have also drawn up regulations.

As well as Berlin, Bremen, Hesse and Saarland are also working on new fine regulations.

Berlin politicians still need to debate if they will allow people to sit alone or in groups of two on grass or benches, broadcaster RBB reported.

Police speak to people in Mauerpark. Photo: DPA

So what might the fines look like?

According to the draft paper, seen by the Tagesspiegel, violations of the minimum distance in public spaces (1.5 metres) could in future cost between €50 and €500 in Berlin.

Residents who are stopped by police and cannot identify themselves despite being required to show proof of identity and address may have to pay somewhere between €25 to €75. 

And anyone who is outside their home without having a valid reason for doing so could be faced with a fine of up to €500.

The punishments listed in the draft are more severe for businesses that flout the rules.

According to the draft, anyone who opens a business that is meant to be closed (such as a non-essential shop or bar), could face a fine of up to €10,000. Operators of businesses that are still open but do not adhere to prescribed hygiene measures may have to pay up to €2,500.

In repeated cases, a fine of up to €25,000 is possible – this is the maximum amount stipulated under the Protection against Infection Act in the area of administrative offences.

READ ALSO: Which parts of Germany are worst affected by coronavirus?

Event crackdown

Meanwhile, violations of the right of assembly are considered criminal offences: anyone caught “with three or more participants” at events or meetings could be charged under a criminal offence. 

This applies to both the organisers and the guests. And, as a lesser offence, anyone who organizes or attends an event with fewer than three participants may be liable to a fine of up to €2,500 (for organisers) or €500 (attendees).

The basis of all decisions and measures taken in Berlin so far is under the Protection against Infection Act. Up to now, police and the public order office have acted without a clear catalogue of fines.

Police checks daily with hundreds of officers

Berlin police are already checking daily whether citizens and businesses are abiding by the rules, as The Local reported.

On Sunday between 6am and 6pm about 350 officers were monitoring the city checking lockdown rules were being adhered to.

Officers recorded nine criminal and 21 administrative offences proceedings for violations.

On Sunday night between 6pm and 6am police lodged eight criminal and 31 administrative offences.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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