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EXPLAINED: Eight things to know about Germany’s new extended partial lockdown

EXPLAINED: Eight things to know about Germany's new extended partial lockdown
Seating cordoned off in Cologne this week. Photo: DPA
Germany's shutdown is being extended through December, with exceptions for Christmas and New Year. Here are eight things you should know about it.

How long will the partial lockdown continue?

The current coronavirus measures were due to end on November 30th. However, they have been extended until December  20th initially. Restaurants, bars, hotels, cultural and leisure facilities will remain closed.

After that, the partial lockdown could be extended again to at least early January if the number of cases does not drop significantly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she doesn't believe the number of cases will drop far enough so a lockdown into January is on the horizon.

It is not clear whether restaurants and hotels will be allowed to open from December 20th, for example for families visiting people at Christmas. However, this doesn't seem likely at this stage. The federal and state governments want to discuss the matter again by December 15th.

How many people can I meet?

From December 1st only five adults from a maximum of two households will be allowed to meet (down from 10 people currently). Children under 14 are excluded from this rule.

From December 23rd to January 1st, the rules will be temporarily relaxed. During this time meetings with a maximum of 10 people are allowed, regardless of the households involved. Again, children are not counted.

As ever, there may be some differences between states so check with your local authority.

Meanwhile, everyone in Germany is called upon “to avoid any unnecessary contact and to stay at home if possible”, the government and states say. “All non-essential professional and private travel, especially tourist travel, including travel abroad, should also be avoided.”

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Will there be any differences between states?

Yes, there is a more regional-based approach this time with a so-called 'hotspot strategy'. Additional restrictions will now be imposed on areas with particularly high rates of coronavirus infection. This applies from a so-called incidence of more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days.

According to Chancellor Merkel, this currently affects the whole of Berlin and 62 districts in Germany. Details on possible restrictions have not been released but they could mean more rules in schools and the retail trade as well as further contact restrictions.

Similarly, states which manage to achieve lower rates can loosen measures.  They'll be able to do that if the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days for at least one week is below 50 and is continuing to fall.

The graphic below by DPA shows the districts with particularly high new infections per 100,000 people in seven days. The light blue areas have far lower infections.

Where do people in Germany have to wear masks?

Masks are compulsory in shops, on public transport and in all places with high public footfall in city centres. Wherever people are in confined spaces or over a longer period of time, a mask must also be worn – even outdoors.

The exact places have to be determined by the authorities. Masks are also compulsory at workplaces – unless a distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained from others.

There are also further mask rules for schools.

What measures apply on trains?

From December there should be more space on trains to allow for better distancing and fewer seats available to be reserved.

Details will be mapped out by Deutsche Bahn but the government and states suggest that only window seats should be available for booking. Extra carriages are also called for to help with distancing, and mask checks will be stepped up.

However, there is no obligation for customers to reserve a seat.

What's changing when it comes to shopping?

Shops will remain open, but with the mask obligation now also in front of retail outlets and in car parks. The number of people in shops will also be reduced.

Small and medium sized shops with a sales area of up to 800 square metres will continue to be allowed a maximum of one customer per 10 square metres.

But these are the new rules for larger shops with a sales area above 800 square metres, such as department stores: up to 800 square metres, there should be a maximum of one person per 10 square metres – and in the area above 800 square metres, a maximum of one person per 20 square metres.

People are urged to do their Christmas shopping at quiet times such as during the week rather than weekends.

What about New Year's Eve, will there be fireworks?

Citizens are advised to avoid New Year's Eve fireworks at the turn of the year. The use of fireworks is even to be prohibited in busy squares and streets. This is to prevent large groups from forming. Local authorities should identify the affected squares and streets.

Publicly organised fireworks are to be prohibited.

In the run-up to the consultations, the conservative-led federal states, unlike the Social Democrat-led states, had spoken out against a ban on the sale of New Year's Eve fireworks.

Why is the shutdown being extended?

Chancellor Merkel said that the exponential growth has been halted but there has not been a trend reversal of infections.

In their final decision paper, the government and states said they were grateful for the “great solidarity and level-headedness” of residents in Germany who have been sticking to the  measures. 

“A great deal has been achieved so far thanks to this willingness to work and take responsibility and confidence in the measures taken,” said the government and states.  “The measures taken are now beginning to have an impact,” said the government.

“In many parts of our country, the increase in 7-day incidence is stagnating or in some cases already declining.”

On Thursday health authorities reported 22,268 new coronavirus infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within 24 hours. That's around 600 more than on Wednesday (18,633). The number of deaths related to the virus rose by 389 to 15 160, a peak of 410 deaths on Wednesday.

According to the latest findings, the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research says that contacts have been reduced by 40 percent as a result of the measures that have now been in force for three weeks, said the government and states.

“But even if the figures stabilise at a high level, the all-clear cannot be given for a long time because the infection figures are still too high in many places,” they said. “The hoped-for trend reversal could not be achieved in November, so far only a 'sideways trend' has been observed.”

When it comes to deciding measures, the priorities for the government are ensuring that hospitals are not overburdened, making sure schools can stay open as much as possible and that risk groups are protected but not isolated.


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