What are Germany’s current coronavirus rules and what could be eased soon?

On Wednesday Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Germany’s state premiers will gather again to discuss easing corona restrictions.

What are Germany's current coronavirus rules and what could be eased soon?
Tables outside of a currently-closed restaurant in Speyer, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: DPA

Calls for relaxing the measures have become increasingly louder, largely from the business community, but also states such as Lower Saxony, Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which have already rolled out plans to reopen the tourism industry.

READ ALSO: Snubbing Merkel pleas, German states ease coronavirus curbs further

Yet even if there is a countrywide decision on Wednesday, there can and will be different regulations in individual states. Here’s what we know about Germany as a whole so far. 

What will be some of the main topics discussed on Wednesday?

Many pupils around Germany have already returned to the classroom, but Kitas (daycare centres) are currently only offering emergency care.

Gymnasium students back in the classroom in Rostock. Photo: DPA

On May 6th, the talks will focus on plans for how to gradually reopen all schools and Kitas.

The government will also be discussing if, and when, restaurants and cafes should be allowed to reopen around the country, and under what conditions. Lower Saxony is already planning to reopen restaurants, under strict hygiene measures, on Monday, May 11th, and Bavaria will follow suit on May 18th.

Other states such as Berlin have laid out plans, which include maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres and ensuring that the servers wear masks.

Germany’s Bundesliga is hoping for a decision on whether so-called ghost games, or matches without spectators, will be allowed again. 

The discussion about allowing outdoor athletic activities, which sports ministers have deemed as “urgently necessary”, will also be on the table. According to them, sports and training could be permitted again if, as a first step they are only allowed in the “fresh air” in public spaces, or on public or private open-air sports facilities.

This would include compliance with distance and contact rules as well as hygiene and disinfection measures, especially in the shared use of sports equipment.

A decision is expected on how intensive care beds reserved in hospitals for corona patients could be released for other patients.

Health Minister Jens Spahn recommended that states keep less capacity free for coronavirus patients from May onward.

Hospitals had observed with concern that there have been fewer patients with heart attacks or strokes, for example, suggesting that people are staying away from hospitals, even if they need care.

What rules are currently in effect?

-Many playgrounds are open again, in some states children have to wait a few more days.

Church services are again possible under certain conditions. This also applies to baptisms, circumcisions, weddings and funeral services in small groups, with a number that varies state by states.

A church on Tuesday in Wiblingen, Baden-Württemberg, which has sealed off part of its seating area to allow more space between churchgoers. Photo: DPA

Museums, exhibitions, memorials, zoos and botanical gardens can reopen under social distancing and hygiene measures.

Hairdressers can open again with restrictions such as ensuring that both the customer and hair dresser wear a face masks. 

-Throughout Germany, masks must be worn when shopping and on public transport. However, only some states are enforcing fines, while others such as Berlin are relying on voluntary participation. Several stores, however, will not permit shoppers inside without a mask. 

READ ALSO: Explained: Do you have to wear a face mask in Germany?

Smaller shops are open; A 800 square metre limit originally went into effect in all states on April 20th, but this is no longer the case in every state. 

Large events such as public festivals, major concerts or trade fairs remain prohibited until at least August 31st. This means large trade fairs, concerts and football matches with an audience are off the cards, because they are particularly dangerous for spreading the virus. 

It's unclear whether this ban will be extended at this stage.

Various states have already cancelled major events, including those starting in September, such as the Oktoberfest in Munich or the marathon in Berlin.

It's considered possible that there could be more concrete limitations to the term “big event” – for example, the question arises as to whether large private wedding celebrations are covered by it.

Bars, pubs and clubs remain closed.

– For restaurants, only takeaway sales have been permitted so far, although some relaxation has already been announced at state level.

Hotels and holiday homes are generally closed to guests, but states such as Lower Saxony are drafting plans to open tourism facilities as early as May.

Beach chairs in Cuxhaven, Lower Saxony, where it will soon be possible to go on holiday again. Photo: DPA

-Employees with cold or flu symptoms can get a doctor's note by telephone until at least May 18th

– Until at least May 10th, it is permitted to stay in public places either only with members of one's own household or with one other person. A distance of at least 1.5 metres must be maintained to people who do not live in their own household. 

Some states already have less strict restrictions in force. In eastern Saxony-Anhalt, for example, up to five people are allowed to meet instead of two. In Saxony, a family or shared flat (WG) is allowed to meet with another couple people. 

– Travelling to relatives should continue to be avoided. For trips abroad, the worldwide travel warning is in place until at least mid-June.

READ ALSO: Germany extends worldwide travel tourist warning until mid-June

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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