Everything that changes in April 2020 in Germany

Whether long-time plans or emergency measures in response to the corona crisis, there's a lot changing in Germany as of Wednesday.

Everything that changes in April 2020 in Germany
A cuckoo clock in Triberg, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Higher ticket prices

Months before the corona crisis hit, a new regulation was approved to make flying less attractive through higher ticket prices and thus to better protect the environment. Slated to come into force on Wednesday, it mandates that:

  • The air transport tax for flights within Germany and in EU countries will increase by more than €5 euros to €13.03 per ticket,
  • Longer flights up to 6000 kilometres it will be increased by almost €10 to €33.01 .
  • For flight over 6000 kilometres, €59.43 will be due, or about €18 more than before.

READ ALSO: 'Flying is too cheap': Germany considers higher ticket prices

Deferred loan repayments

All consumer loan agreements – whether for a new car, apartment or home – concluded before March 15th can be paused for a maximum of three months. This includes repayment, interest and principal payments due between April 1st and June 30th.

A free ride along the Rhine

In Monheim am Rhein all residents can travel by bus free of charge starting on Wednesday. The small town between Leverkusen and Düsseldorf will thus become the only municipality in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia where people will no longer have to pay anything for public transport. According to the city, it plans to spend just under €3.5 million a year on the measure.

READ ALSO: Why this German city plans to make public transport free

A bus in Monheim. Photo: DPA

Changes for Hartz IV recipients 

Starting in April, job centres around Germany will be waiving the assets and rent examination for the Hartz IV applications for half a year.

Hartz IV recipients also no longer have to go to their job centre in person, but can usually simply call. Applications for unemployment benefit can be made by telephone or online.

Berlin’s Humboldt University to offer free legal advice in corona disputes starting in April

Whether canceled flights, ticket refunds, or rent issues: Consumer law advisors at Berlin's Humboldt University will also be offering free advice as of Wednesday. Cases with an amount in dispute of up to €1,000 in consumer law and up to €5,000 in residential tenancy law will be accepted, the HU Consumer Law Office announced last week.

Interested parties could then mail their initial inquiries to [email protected] 

The service of the HU Law Department is staffed by students who are trained and supported by trained and fully qualified lawyers. This enables them to gain their first professional experience.

Protection against dismissing tenants

Currently, a landlord can terminate the lease if no rent is paid for two consecutive months. However, due to the corona crisis, terminations are now prohibited if a loss of income means that the tenant cannot pay their rent. 

This will initially apply to rent debts from the period between April 1st to June 20th, but the government is authorised to extend the measures until September 30th. 

However, the tenants' obligation to pay the rent will in principle remain in place, and it will only be deferred. The arrears must be settled after two years at the latest, i.e. by June 30th, 2022. Otherwise, the landlord is permitted to evict the tenant for their failure to pay.

Schools start again

As a precautionary measure, schools and daycare centres were closed in all of Germany's 16 states in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. After the end of the Easter holidays, classes and day care are officially slated to start again – but at different times in different states, ranging from April 14th in Hamburg to April 26th in Saarland. However, the closures stand to be extended. 

READ ALSO: All German states announce school and kita closures

New child aid supplement

Through a massive aid package approved last Friday through Germany’s Federal Cabinet, parents with loss of earnings will have easier access to the so-called child supplement starting on Wednesday. The Kindergeld payment supports families in which the parents' earnings are not sufficient for the whole family’s expenses. 

READ ALSO: Kindergeld: What you need to know about Germany's child support payments

Up until now, the average income over the past six months has been the basis for calculating the child supplement. Yet from April 1st, only the income of the last month before the application has to be proven, and assets won't be taken into account. This regulation initially lasts until the end of September.

Coronavirus ban to either end or be extended

The ban on contact imposed by the federal and state governments or the exit restrictions applicable in some federal states should also apply until at least April 20th, according to Helge Braun, head of the Chancellor's Office and government coordinator in the Corona crisis.

In Bavaria, Saarland and Saxony, for example, curfew restrictions apply rather than bans on contacts.

A school in Munich which closed due to the corona crisis. Photo: DPA

Childcare contributions are suspended in some federal states in April

Parents in North Rhine-Westphalia do not have to pay contributions to their children's child care in April. All parental contributions for nurseries and day care – at home or in a centre – for the coming month would be suspended nationwide, said NRW family minister Joachim Stamp (FDP) on Thursday in Düsseldorf. 

Similar regulations already exist in several other federal states, such as Saxony and Thuringia. Parents should be reimbursed for kindergarten and after-school fees if the children cannot be looked after.

In many towns and cities in Lower Saxony, as well as in Baden-Württemberg, parents will probably not have to pay a daycare fee for April – and Schleswig-Holstein also wants to reimburse the fees. The municipalities are to receive €50 million from the Corona emergency aid program.

Unmarried couples can adopt stepchildren in future
The prerequisite is that they have lived together for at least four years or already have a child in the same household. If one of the two partners is still married to someone else, adoption is only possible in exceptional cases. Until now, stepchildren could only be adopted by the spouse of their parent. 
Building better wages

Although construction is taking place in Germany, the construction industry is also feeling the effects of the current economic downturn caused by the corona pandemic. 

But because construction boomed for years and sales grew, more money will be available starting on April 1st for more than 200,000 of the 820,000 construction workers in the building industry nationwide.

These are the new wages agreed upon by the industry:

  • Minimum wage for unskilled work will rise by 35 cents to €12.55 per hour starting in April.
  • The minimum wage for skilled workers in west Germany and Berlin will then rise by 20 cents to €15.40 and €15.25 respectively. This minimum wage for skilled workers in the construction industry does not exist in the eastern German states.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.