EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany’s social distancing rules

Germany extended social distancing restrictions until June 29th. Here's an overview of the current rules.

EXPLAINED: What to know about Germany's social distancing rules
People walking in Leipzig on May 25th. Photo: DPA

Germany wants to continue to slow the spread of coronavirus. On Tuesday May 26th, the government and states agreed to extend the so-called contact restrictions up to June 29th.

They had initially been extended until June 5th, and were put in place in mid-March to stem the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Germany extends coronavirus distance rules to June 29th

The federal government says that if outbreaks occur then further contact restrictions or measures can be implemented.

Here's an overview of the general rules, although the restrictions can differ in each of Germany's 16 federal states. For example, Thuringia is ending social distancing requirements on June 13th and will replace them with recommendations.

Check with state authorities for the most up-to-date restrictions list.

  • In order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and to protect individuals from becoming infected, people in Germany must continue to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 metres from each other in public places (excluding families and people who live in the same household)
  • Currently, people from two separate households are allowed to meet in public. Now, individual states can choose to keep this rule or allow up to 10 people – or the members of two households – to meet in public
  • Private gatherings are allowed – but people are urged to stick to social distancing rules – again, though, this can vary from state to state
  • The government recommends that residents keep the number of people they are in contact with with as low as possible and keep their circle of friends/family as consistent as possible.
  • In certain public places, such as shops and public transport, the use of face masks is mandatory

'The virus is still there'

The number of new Covid-19 infections in Germany is at a “low level” a month after the restrictions were eased, signalling that distance and hygiene rules have been well implemented and observed, the government said.

“We would like to thank all citizens who have made this possible and who consistently adhere to these rules,” said the government and states in the new document outlining the rules. “However, the virus is still there and will spread very quickly without such measures.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: How to do social distancing in Germany

The government says this was evident before the restrictions came into place in mid-March in Germany, and that trend is also being seen in local outbreaks or at gatherings. 

“Therefore, particularly in view of the gradual opening of all areas of life and the associated increase in contacts, it is essential that rules of distance and hygiene remain integrated into everyday life” as long as there is no vaccine or treatment, said the government.

Authorities say that people should be able to trace contacts so that infection chains can be stamped out quickly.

READ ALSO: Why it's still not possible to hug all your friends and family in Germany

The government and states have agreed on hygiene and distancing plans for areas such as sport, culture and transport to allow the reopening of more public life.

When it comes to meetings (such as in the workplace or at home), these are the new rules:

  • Hygiene and distance rules should also be implemented for private meetings at home in closed rooms, and the number of people should be measured according to the possibility of observing the 1.5 metre distance rule
  • Sufficient ventilation should be provided through opening windows and the number of people should be limited accordingly
  • Where possible, private meetings should be held outdoors, as there is a considerably lower risk of infection
  • The traceability of all meeting participants should be guaranteed

Throughout the pandemic, you should also try and follow these guidelines:

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow, use disposable tissues and throw them away
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially after being outside and before you eat
  • Avoid crowds or groups of people
  • Avoid gestures, such as shaking hands or hugging
  • Ventilate rooms in your home regularly
  • Try to avoid using public transport when possible
  • Try and avoid travelling if possible – even within Germany (there are many border restrictions at the moment)
  • Try and avoid shopping during busy periods
  • Keep a distance of 1.5 to 2 metres from other people

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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.