Berlin makes Covid tests mandatory for all workers with customer contact

The city of Berlin has introduced a new rule which makes twice weekly testing for a coronavirus infection mandatory for anyone who has contact with customers as part of their work.

Berlin makes Covid tests mandatory for all workers with customer contact
A woman takes a self-test in Berlin. Photodpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

As of Wednesday, people in Berlin employed in delivery services, supermarkets, and a variety of other sectors where there is physical contact with customers will need to take at least two rapid antigen test a week, and keep the results for a further four weeks.

Paragraph 6a of the capital city’s new Infection Protection Measures Ordinance, which was agreed upon by the Senate last Tuesday, sets out mandatory testing for everyone who has direct contact with customers or guests.

For those directly employed by a company, the employer is obliged to organise the testing for its employees.

Self-employed people who have direct contact with customers are also required to test themselves at least once a week for an infection with the Sars-Cov-2 virus.

The self-employed need to organize their own tests. But they can make use of the city’s free test centres.

On Saturday, Berlin’s city government agreed to tighten some restrictions while also offering the possibility for the retail sector to reopen dependant on a testing regime.

When the rules take effect on Wednesday, everyone will need to wear an FFP2 mask when entering a supermarket or any other shop.

At the same time, shopping malls are being asked to organize test centres that would allow customers to take an antigen test. Having a test that is less than 24 hours old will allow people to enter shops.

Berlin’s Senate has foreseen the fact that there might initially be shortages in supplies. The law states that the rules “shall only apply if sufficient tests are available and it is reasonable for them to be procured”.

Mayor Michael Müller announced last week that he would not send the capital back into a hard lockdown despite the city having a 7-day incidence above the level where the so-called emergency brake should be applied.

SEE ALSO: Berlin refuses to go back into hard shutdown despite high infection rate

“I believe that it is not a viable path to now turn back everything that we have fought for in terms of opportunities and freedoms in recent days and weeks,” Müller said on Thursday.

The Social Democrat mayor said that he wanted to tackle a third wave of the virus through increased testing.

But his anti-shutdown stance has put him on a collision course with the federal government after all 16 federal states agreed to “consequently” apply the emergency brake if the state’s 7-day incidence exceeds 100 on three consecutive days at last Monday’s lockdown summit.

The emergency brake clause specifies that states return to the strict restrictions of February when the retail sector was completely closed and contacts were restricted to one person outside one’s own household.

Angela Merkel called on Sunday for the federal states to “take action”.

“We have to take the appropriate measures very seriously. Some states are doing it, others are not yet doing it,” she said.

The Chancellor warned that, if states don’t act, she would consider whether to take action “in the near future” at the federal level that would force them to go back into lockdowns.

READ MORE: Merkel urges German states to stick to agreed shutdown rules

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.