Curfews and caps on parties: Berlin and Frankfurt tighten coronavirus rules

New curfews for bars and cafes, and tighter rules on social gatherings, were announced for Berlin and Frankfurt on Tuesday as authorities tackled coronavirus spikes.

Curfews and caps on parties: Berlin and Frankfurt tighten coronavirus rules
In Berlin a curfew will be in place in bars and restaurants. Photo: DPA

In Berlin, the restrictions on meeting others will be tighter at night, between 11pm and 6am, when they are limited to five people from different households, or people from two households.

During the day, groups of up to 50 will still be permitted, although indoors the cap is 10. Previously the limit for indoor gatherings was 25.

An 11pm curfew on bars, restaurants and shops was also introduced after the capital saw the virus's reproduction rate hit 1.26, meaning each infected person is passing it to more than one other person.

According to the Berlin Senate's decision, exceptions are planned for petrol stations, but these are no longer allowed to sell alcohol at night. Pharmacies are also exempt.

The measures are mainly aimed at clamping down on private and illegal parties, which the Berlin authorities see as driving the infection rates up. They are to apply from Saturday – and are initially in place until October 31st.

Berlin tightened measures in the city just last week. They included compulsory masks in offices. However, figures have continued to worry authorities. There have been around 1,500 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the last seven days in the capital.

And the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days has reached a value of 44.2. In the inner city districts the numbers are significantly higher than on the outskirts, with the popular district of Neukölln in particular standing out with 87.3.

READ ALSO: 'Stricter than other German cities': These are Berlin's new coronavirus measures

“The 7-day incidence in Berlin and Bremen is considerably higher, in Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse moderately higher than the national mean 7-day incidence,” said the Robert Koch Institute in its latest situation report. 

Meanwhile, Frankfurt announced a 10pm curfew for restaurants, banned alcohol consumption in public places and made masks obligatory in busy shopping areas.

READ ALSO: 'More masks, less parties': Germany limits events and family gatherings to curb coronavirus

Other parts of Europe are also increasing measures.

From Friday, Belgians will be restricted to unmasked contact with just three people in their personal “bubble”, down from five, and an 11pm curfew on bars and cafes in Brussels will be extended to the rest of the country.

Belgium has recorded more than 30,000 new cases since September 20, and 500 hospitalisations in the first week of October.

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German Health Minister planning new mask rules for autumn

Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is already making plans to combat a potential new wave of Covid infections in the autumn.

German Health Minister planning new mask rules for autumn

Speaking on Germany’s ZDF channel on Wednesday, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that he wants to make it possible to reintroduce compulsory indoor mask-wearing in the autumn.

Under the current Infection Protection Act, only so-called ‘basic protection’ applies – with mask-wearing mandatory only on public transport and in stations, on flights to and from Germany, in hospitals and medical practices, and care facilities.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

But Lauterbach said that the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd, is now being worked on again.

“The question will have to be discussed again, for example, whether wearing masks indoors will become mandatory…I think it is absolutely necessary that we open up this possibility for the autumn,” he said.

Lauterbach’s comments follow a meeting of state health ministers last week, in which they warned that new Covid-19 variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter and that tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

READ ALSO: Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach also warned that the higher-risk Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the Federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the Covid-19 pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Chairwoman of the conference of health ministers, Petra Grimm-Benne said.

In the ZDF programme on Wednesday, Lauterbach also defended government plans to procure additional Covid vaccines. He said they now have vaccines for three different Covid strains ready for the autumn.

“I don’t know what’s coming,” he said, but, when a dangerous wave comes, he said, everyone wants the best vaccine. “So I’d rather be criticized for throwing it away later.”