EXPLAINED: How Berlin's new coronavirus rules affect you
Berlin’s Senate agreed to new pandemic restrictions from Wednesday that include tighter rules on testing and mask wearing but which steer clear of a return to a strict lockdown.
Compulsory FFP2 masks
The new rules, which were agreed on Saturday and will come into force on Wednesday April 1st, mean that everyone will now have to buy FFP2 masks if they want to go shopping, or move around the city on public transport.
Normal medical masks (usually blue and white in colour) will no longer be permitted in many public spaces.
The stringent new mask requirement applies to supermarkets, as well as any other shops that may be able to open in April due to a ramped up testing regime.
Anyone who uses the city’s U-Bahn, S-Bahn or buses will also now have to wear an FFP2 mask. The rule also applies in train stations and at airports.
FFP2 masks will also have to be worn in hospitals, libraries, museums and cultural centres in general.
There are also tighter new rules for hairdressers coming into force. Anyone who wants to have their hair cut will have to provide a negative test that was conducted on the same day.
The same rules for testing apply to all shops with the exception of essential retailers, such as food stores and petrol stations.
The senate is “encouraging” department stores and shopping centres to organise testing centres for visitors at their premises.
Anyone attending an organized meeting of more than five people will also be required to present a negative test. This rule is to apply to meetings of political parties, business meetings and any other events that take place indoors.
An exception has been made for religious gatherings and demonstrations.
There is more information on testing rules on the Berlin Senate website here.
Use of Luca App
Berlin has also put its weight behind a new smart phone application called Luca which was developed privately and allows people to check into shops via an encrypted system.
The agreement also includes “an appeal” to service providers and traders to use available technologies such as the Luca app. “This will be mandatory for the retail sector, with the exception of food stores.”
The Berlin-Brandenburg Trade Association (HBB) welcomed the decision, saying that it interpreted the agreement to mean that shopping would be able to take place again without customers having to make an appointment first.
HBB boss Nils Busch-Petersen told the Berliner Zeitung that "we welcome the fact that we are moving away from a pure shutdown. This has the potential to become bigger."
Home office obligation
From Wednesday onwards all companies and public institutions are in principle required to keep half of their office space empty.
Previously, working from home was encouraged for all companies but not made specifically mandatory.
The new law makes exceptions for businesses where it is not possible for employees to work from home, such as medical facilities and prisons.
Twice-weekly tests for employees
The new rules also require employers to provide their work force with two tests a week. These can be self-tests that are carried out under observation by a trained professional.
Testing before private meetings
Berlin mayor Michael Müller also urged people to get into the habit of taking a test before any private meetings. In Berlin, and most other German states, a household can meet with another household with up to five people in attendance under Covid rules. Children under 14 are not included in the rule.
Couples can be counted as one household even if they don't live together.
He also urged people to wear masks during private meetings.