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HEALTH

Coronavirus in Germany: Which measures are changing this week?

We look at what's changing from Monday, May 11th - and sometimes remaining the same - in each of Germany's 16 states.

Coronavirus in Germany: Which measures are changing this week?
A man with a mask walks in the botanical garden Wilhelma in Stuttgart after it's opened for the first time in almost eight weeks. Photo: DPA

Every week coronavirus restrictions are being loosened around Germany, whether restaurants being allowed to reopen under strict conditions or hotels welcoming guests again.

Here’s an overview of what to expect from each state. 

Baden-Württemberg

As of Monday, all stores in the southwestern state – rather than those of a space of up to 800 square metres – are allowed to reopen again.

Service providers such as nail and cosmetic studios can also open up again, as can driving schools.

Those eager to set up a tent in the Black Forest will be able to, starting on May 18th, when holiday homes and campgrounds are allowed to welcome guests again.

If the number of new coronavirus cases continues to decline, then restaurants with indoor seating will also follow on May 25th.

And as of May 29th, other accommodation facilities such as hotels and leisure parks should be able to resume operations, announced Minister President Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) and Tourism Minister Guido Wolf (CDU).

Bavaria

All zoos, museums, botanical gardens, museums and stores (up from the previous of maximum 800 square metres) are allowed to open again in the southern state, which had one of Germany’s most strict lockdowns until recently.

READ ALSO: Bavaria unveils detailed plan out of lockdown as coronavirus cases drop

All pupils who are finishing school in the coming year are also allowed to return to the classroom, as are fourth year students. 

Those eager to sip a drink in a Bavarian beer garden will have to wait a few more days: they are opening their doors starting on May 18th, as are the outdoor seating areas of restaurants. Indoor seating at eateries is permitted to open again starting on May 25th, and hotels can welcome guests again on May 30th. 

Berlin 

Starting on Monday, students in the first, fifth and seventh classes have been allowed to return to the classroom again. The goal is to provide all pupils with face-to-face lessons, with a reduced number, by May 29th. 

Restaurants will open again on May 15th under strict hygienic conditions, and hotels will follow on May 25th.

Berlin's main library (Staatsbibliotek) open on Wednesday and set up a separate sign for the entrance and exit. Photo: DPA

READ ALSO: Berlin plans to open restaurants and all stores – under strict rules

Following the opening of hair salons last Monday, cosmetic studios are also allowed to serve customers again. 

Brandenburg

As of May 9th, all shops in Berlin’s neighbouring state have been allowed to open, regardless of their size. All playgrounds have also been open since this date.

Restaurants will be opening up on May 15th, and 10 days later on May 25th, hotels and holiday homes can open their doors to visitors again.

From May 15th, sport training as part of a Verein (association) is allowed again outside – as long as there’s no competition or body contact.

Bremen

Restaurants and hotels in Germany’s northern city-state remain closed, but the state government is slated to announce a plan about their reopening on Tuesday. 

Hamburg

Stores of up to 800 square metres have been allowed to welcome customers since April 20th, but now all stores in the Harbour City are allowed to open again. 

Hesse

All restaurants and other eating establishments can open their doors again on Friday, May 15th under strict hygienic conditions. 

Pensions, private rooms and hotels can also resume operations from Friday. In all public areas such as the reception, the conference and breakfast rooms as well as the restaurant, however, the rules of distance between staff and guests, as well as between guests themselves, must be observed, according to the state government.

Sports where a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained has also been allowed since Saturday. On Friday, fitness studios will also be allowed to open again.

Lower Saxony

Stores in the central state are now allowed to open, as can some tourist accommodation, such as camping spots and holiday rentals. 

However, new guests may only enter the holiday apartments every seven days: This so-called re-occupancy period means that an apartment must remain vacant for three days after a four-day occupancy, for example.

READ ALSO: 'We have to think in phrases': Is this how Germany can return to life with the coronavirus?

This does not apply to the other accommodations, but they may only allocate half of the spots available. Hotels are not allowed to welcome guests again until May 25th.

Restaurants, pubs, cafes and beer gardens can also open again, as long as they allow just half of the full occupancy, and tables are set up to allow for a minimum distance of two metres between guests.

Guests are also required to leave their contact information, as self service and buffets remain out of the question for the time being. 


Rhineland-Palatinate 

Starting on Monday, museums and exhibitions will be allowed to open their doors again – under the condition that every visitor wears a mask. The number of people allowed inside will be capped and hand sanitiser will be provided. 

Restaurants, cafes and pubs will be allowed to open their doors again on Wednesday, May 13th.

Fourth class students in Bavaria received colourful instructions on the amount of distance to maintain from each other. Photo: DPA

North Rhine-Westphalia

Germany’s most populous state – and second most affected in terms of coronavirus cases – is loosening a lot of measures starting on Monday.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs can open, offering both indoor and outdoor seating again. Fitness studios will also be allowed to open their doors.  All fourth year students will also return to the classroom, coming in on a rotating basis throughout the day so that they are not all present at once. 

In the county of Coesfeld, however, openings (with the exception of schools and Kitas) are being pushed back by a week after an outbreak of infections in a meat processing plant.

READ ALSO: German counties to reimpose shutdowns over coronavirus clusters

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

As of Monday, training outside with up to five people is again allowed as long as they maintain a distance of 1.5 metres. Dressing rooms and eating areas, however, are to remain closed for the time being. 

Museums, exhibitions and memorial sites are also allowed to welcome visitors as long as hygienic conditions are met. On Saturday, restaurants also began greeting guests again, and driving schools also opened their doors. 

READ ALSO: A taste of normalcy as first restaurants reopen around Germany

Saxony-Anhalt

As of Monday, the eastern state is allowing visits to care homes – but residents in them may only receive one visitor per day. Visitors must also wear a mask. 

Saxony

Starting on Friday, the eastern state will allow two different households to meet in public. Restaurants and hotels will also be allowed to open their doors again. 

A further easing of restrictions will occur on May 18th, when shops of all sizes, for example, will be allowed to reopen. 

Schleswig-Holstein

All stores regardless of their size opened in Germany’s most northern state starting on Saturday, as long as specific hygienic conditions, such as wearing a mask, were met. 

Fitness studios and indoor sports will open or be allowed again May 18th. 

Thuringia

The state’s 16,000 fourth year students are now allowed to return to the classroom. Starting on Wednesday, people from two different households can meet either in public or in their private households. 

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point. 

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