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‘People are breaking the rules’: What it’s like living in Germany during the coronavirus lockdown

From worries over other people ignoring social distancing to watching movies, this is how international residents in Germany are getting through the partial lockdown in place to stem the spread of coronavirus.

'People are breaking the rules': What it’s like living in Germany during the coronavirus lockdown
A 'stay at home' sign in Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Germany introduced strict measures in March to slow down the spread of Covid-19. It means we’re only allowed to leave our homes for essential trips, such as for food shopping, doctors appointments and exercise.

So how are residents coping? And is everyone following them? We asked readers to share their thoughts on the lockdown in Germany, and how they think the government is dealing with the crisis.

READ ALSO: 'The situation is fragile': Merkel urges Germans to stick to coronavirus restrictions

'It's difficult but we understand'

Jasmine Limgenco, 37, who lives in Hanover and is originally from the Philippines told The Local her family are all sticking to the rules and going out “only for groceries, important doctors appointments, and exercise around the block”. 

“It’s difficult,” said Limgenco. “Especially with an energetic child stuck at home but we understand the purpose of these restrictions.”

The Limgenco family are getting through this time with home cooked food and movie marathons. 

For Yash Trivedi, 19, from India, life in Wildau, Brandenburg, has changed drastically. 

Trivedi and her housemates are quarantining together and following restrictions when they leave the house. 

“We are now following all the rules advised by the Bundesregierung (government) like maintaining social distancing, going out only for essential activity specially shopping and washing hands frequently for 20 seconds,” she told The Local.

They are coping with the changes by playing games and talking a lot with each other.

Trivedi said the crisis is not as severe in Brandenburg as other places. 

“People are following social distancing and most of the time the streets remain empty,” she said. “I do have faith in authorities as they are working very hard day and night, and controlling this pandemic well.

However, like lots of other readers, Trivedi said the lockdown measures should be extended “at least until the end of May”.

READ ALSO: How Germany's international residents are affected by the coronavirus pandemic

Police patrolling a park in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

Ian Williams, 67, who’s originally from England but now lives in Hohestein, Rhineland-Palatinate said he is self-isolating with his wife, working in the garden and building a pizza oven during the shutdown.

He also said the current lockdown measures should be extended until May.

READ ALSO: Germany could see 'gradual return to normality' after Easter holidays

Margaret Hieke, 62, from Texas and now in Würzburg, said she’s getting through the crisis with meditation, reaching out to loved ones through video chat, reading and keeping busy.

Hieke says people in her area are following the coronavirus lockdown rules.

“I believe the government is doing a good job,” she said. “I feel the restrictions are working and from what I have seen, most are keeping to the law.”

However, she said the measures shouldn’t be lifted too early.

A 30-year-old in Mössingen and originally from the US told The Local how she is self-isolating due to being immunosuppressed and has asthma. 

She said: “I'm worried about the future as we have to move to Cologne in June so I can start my PhD there, and it'll be difficult with the restrictions. I also feel useless because my job is lab based, and there is nothing I can do at home.”

Worries over people flouting coronavirus lockdown

For Sonia Vega, 40, who’s in Cologne and originally from Florida, movies are also important, along with TV shows, and keeping in touch with friends and family via texts or calls. 

Vega, who is pregnant, said she only goes out for doctor appointments and grocery shopping, plus walks for exercise about three to four times a week. 

Like other readers she’s worried about too many people gathering outside.

“I see some young people not following the rules.” she said. “The days are nice and there’s a lot of people in parks. I think that parks should be closed too.”

Limgenco in Hanover says she has faith in the German government.

“I think they’re handling it better than other parts of the world,” she said. “Most people are following the restrictions but as the weather becomes warmer, there are more and more people outside.”

She says measures should remain in place until there are no more new cases.

Melbourne-born Sonya Kelly, 47, in Hannover said she and her husband were “astonished” at the amount of people going outside and queuing for ice cream on warmer days.

Jessica H, in Berlin and from the UK, says she is really worried about people not sticking to coronavirus restrictions.

On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel made a fresh appeal, urging residents to stay at home whenever possible. 

But Jessica said: “People break the rules everywhere. Every time you go to the supermarket there is someone who acts like they don't understand the need to keep 1.5m from you. 

“I even saw a corona party the other night at the park by the Friedhof in Pankow with at least eight people drinking beer and dancing to bad techno. There is still a lot of selfish people leaving the responsibility to do the social distancing for other people.”

She called for more testing to be done and more consistent enforcement of the rules.

READ ALSO: When and how will Germany's lockdown measures end?

Natalia Fernandez, 26, had a similar experience in Berlin. She said: “In Köpenick (a suburb of Berlin) people follow the rules; however in places like Kreuzberg, Neukölln or Mitte it's like people don't care and don't follow the rules at all.”

Fernandez said she was recently in Görlitzer Park in Berlin and “there were many groups of people” despite a ban on gatherings of more than two (excluding families).

People in a Berlin park this week. Photo: DPA

She said police told people to split up but as soon as the officers left, the groups gathered again.

Despite this she said German authorities were doing a good job.

“What I'm really afraid of is the huge economic crisis coming after,” she said.

Suzan French, 72, originally from the UK and now in Brandenburg, said the government was “excellent” but police should be controlling the social distancing measures more in the suburbs.

More support for people

Rabiul Hossain Chowdhury, 29, who is based in Kiel and originally from Bangladesh, says he is staying at home and only going out for essential reasons. 

He has faith in authorities but added: “People aren’t following rules. I saw lots of people on the bus and also people are going out to enjoy the sunlight.”

Chowdhury urged the government to do more to support international students. 

“For example, I lost my job and as a foreigner I didn’t get any financial help and my money will be finished soon,” he said. “So a small help would be really important for lots of students.”

READ ALSO: State by state: How much do you have to pay for flouting Germany's coronavirus rules?

Sushrutha Gundu, 23, who's in Karlsruhe and from India, had a similar point of view, urging Germany to support students so they can complete their degrees.

Readers said the government needed to take more action before lockdown was lifted.

Victor Adebayo, 33, in Weiden in der Oberpfalz and originally from Nigeria, said:  “I think more needs to be done in terms of testing for the virus before people are allowed to resume back to work otherwise we might face another wave of the spread of the virus.

“The government should also make masks available for purchase.”

Of course the situation can be different depending on where you live. Some readers told us what the atmosphere is like where there are stricter coronavirus lockdown rules.

Amanda Perez, 31, from Mexico said: “In Munich, where I live, lockdown measures started from the 21st of March. Gatherings aren't allowed, leaving your house is only allowed if you have a valid reason.

“My life has changed, definitely. But my employer has refused to allow home office.”

***
 
Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with us. Although we weren't able to include all the submissions, we read each of them and we are truly sympathetic to the challenges Germany's international residents are facing right now.
 
If there's anything you'd like to ask or tell us about our coronavirus coverage or how the outbreak has affected you, please feel free to get in touch.

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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