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How Berlin’s new Covid curfew and contact rules affect you

Berlin has introduced yet another set of new rules in an attempt to slow Covid infection rates, including tighter restrictions on socialising. Here’s what you need to know.

How Berlin's new Covid curfew and contact rules affect you
Berliners enjoying spring on Easter Sunday. Photo: DPA

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.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: These are Berlin’s coronavirus rules

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.

Photo: DPA

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/.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Berlin’s new compulsory testing requirement for shops and hairdressers? 

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.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller. Photo: DPA

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.

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COVID-19 RULES

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”

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