After a brief spell of rest and relaxation over the Easter long weekend, Berliners are now facing at least 18 days of stricter coronavirus rules, including an effective ban on home visits after 9pm, as the Senate struggles to tackle a stubborn rise in Covid-19 infections.
The new rules, which were agreed by the Senate on April 1st ahead of the Easter holidays, place tighter controls on meeting members of other households, but stop short of asking people to stay home.
What are the new rules?
From Tuesday 6th until at least April 24th, up to five people from two households will be allowed to meet outdoors during the daytime. If meeting indoors, only one person from another household is allowed – and only until 9pm at night.
Although the Senate is asking people to “reduce contact to the bare minimum”, the measures imposed fall short of a full lockdown. Nevertheless, Berliners are encouraged to only go out for specific reasons, such as exercise, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, or looking after your allotment.
With sunnier weather on the horizon, officials have warned of increased police presence on hotter days to ensure that people continue to socially distance, particularly in parks and other green spaces.
Is there still going to be a night-time curfew?
In a way, yes. While you’ll still be allowed to go out after 9pm, you’ll only be able to leave the house alone or with one other person from the same household. Equally, visiting a friend’s house between 9pm and 5am is no longer allowed.
Since couples are counted as a single household, however, partners will still be allowed to visit each other in the evenings.
What about shops, hairdressers and cultural venues?
Here’s where things get a bit more complicated. If you’d like to visit a museum, gallery, non-essential shop (such as a clothes shop) or hairdresser, you’ll now have to present a negative Covid-19 test that was taken within the last 24 hours.
Don’t panic just yet, though – you won’t need to present a negative test to visit everyday establishments such as supermarkets, book shops, bike repair shops, takeaways, stationers and pharmacies.
If you need to get hold of one of your free tests, you can find a list of testing centres at https://test-to-go.berlin/.
Why was there so much confusion?
For a start, because there’s been a huge amount of disagreement about how best to deal with rising infection rates.
Not only have the three ruling parties in the Berlin Senate – the Greens, SPD and Die Linke (the Left) – been squabbling amongst themselves over the effectiveness of a full lockdown, but they’ve also been fighting with Chancellor Angela Merkel about whether to apply the so-called “emergency brake” since the region’s 7-day coronavirus incidence rate rose above 100 infections per 100,000 people in early March.
Meanwhile, the Easter holidays created additional pressure for politicians to allow family gatherings while also stemming the rising tide of infections.
This effectively meant that different rules were imposed over the Easter weekend, with an immediate toughening of rules starting the day after Easter Monday.
What are the current infection rates in Berlin?
On Easter Monday, officials reported that the number of positive cases in the capital had decreased slightly to 9,540, but warned that the number of people in intensive care beds continues to rise. The 7-day incidence in Berlin was 114.6 on Tuesday.