Car park prayers to noodle hats: How Germany is social distancing

Germany is turning to creative ways to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Here's what it looks like.

Car park prayers to noodle hats: How Germany is social distancing
An Ikea car park is used for an Eid prayer in Wetzler, near Frankfurt. Photo: IGMG/DPA

How do you ensure social distancing at events such as theatre shows or football matches? Or even in schools, restaurants or during religious gatherings?

As the lockdown restrictions continue to ease, people across Germany are getting creative to ensure there's enough distance to keep the number of coronavirus infections at bay.

Here are some pictures that show how they are doing it. All photos unless otherwise stated are by DPA.

Removing seats

At theatre company the Berliner Ensemble, bosses decided to rebuild the auditorium so they can ensure distance when they are allowed to reopen.

“We absolutely want to play again, this is our mission,” Oliver Reese, artistic director told The Local.

The plans for the next season had to be completely rethought and organized in the past weeks. But we have succeeded, in close cooperation with the artistic teams and also with our ensemble, in playfully developing new visions for this coming, extraordinary season.”

They're also thinking about how social distancing can work on stage.

“We want to see the restrictions imposed by corona as a common challenge: how do we define encounter – between the actors, but also with the audience?” Reese said. 

“Does closeness on stage always require touch? It is already clear that certain productions will not be possible under the changed circumstances. But numerous artists have developed a great desire to search for these new signs in our upcoming premieres.”

The Berliner Ensemble is set to open in September.

Car park used for prayers

In Wetzler, near Frankfurt in the central German state of Hesse, hundreds of Muslims gathered together – but with distance – for an Eid prayer in the car park of a branch of Ikea.

Around 800 Muslims prayed in the large outdoor space to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Sunday May 24th.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: Which restrictions are changing from Monday May 25th?

Places of worship have reopened in Germany but they must follow rules to curb the spread of coronavirus.


A church service in the Berliner Dom

Pool noodles to ensure distance

The Cafe Roth in Schwerin, in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, celebrated its reopening recently by giving customers pool noodles to wear on their head in a bid to show social distancing in action.

The stunt gained worldwide attention, making the news across the world.

Bears lend a helping hand

Teddy bears have been placed at tables in the dining room of the Hofheim restaurant “Beef'n Beer” in the central state of Hesse, in order to guarantee the minimum distance between guests.

They do make cute dinner guests.

No fans at football matches

This is what Bundesliga games in Germany look like at the moment – empty stadiums. This was the scene at the RB Leipzig – Hertha BSC match on May 27th in the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.

The sign above says 'keep your distance'.

And when journalists cover the games, they have to sit far apart, shown here at the FC Union Berlin – 1. FSV Mainz game on May 27th.

Spaced out desks

When it comes to exams, pupils at schools have to have plenty more space. This is a view of the Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium in Ravensburg, Baden-Württemberg on May 20th. 

Free tables and signs

At restaurants and cafes some tables must remain free to ensure distance, such as this one at a hotel restaurant in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Plexiglass aplenty

Is this the future of cinemas? Plexiglass has been installed between the seats of the Cineplex Alhambra in Berlin to ensure social distancing.

Cinemas in Berlin don't have an opening date yet.

READ ALSO: How cinemas in Germany plan to reopen

Blocked out seats

Some seats can be blocked off on trains, like this one in Frankfurt, to ensure social distancing.



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Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”