Berlin plans restaurant openings as Covid infection rate falls

Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller said on Tuesday that the city’s restaurants could open for outside dining in the coming weeks, as the improved level of infection in the capital signals that the "emergency brake" can soon be lifted.

Berlin plans restaurant openings as Covid infection rate falls
A restaurant in Berlin Mitte. credit:dpa-Zentralbild | Paul Zinken

“If the incidences continue to develop as we are seeing at the moment, then I think we can start opening restaurants here,” Müller said on Tuesday after a meeting of the city senate.

On Wednesday morning the 7-day incidence in Berlin stood at 105 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a big drop from 111 on Tuesday.

An ‘emergency brake’ (Notbremse) law passed by the German Bundestag last month means that districts with 7-day incidences above 100 have to close all non-essential retail, restaurants and cultural facilities.

At the same time, if a district has a 7-day incidence below 100 for three days in a row then it can begin to ease these restrictions.

The situation in Berlin’s hospitals is also now improving. For the first time since April 10th, the city confirmed on Wednesday that less than a quarter of its intensive care beds were taken up by patients suffering from Covid-19.

Müller said he would set out concrete plans next week.

“We’ll be looking specifically next week at what can be offered, mainly outdoors, of course,” he said.

“If things are possible, they will continue to come with rules,” he stressed, but hinted that some cultural activities could also be back on the agenda.

“Outdoor cultural events will be limited, with few people, and with distance and hygiene rules.”

READ ALSO: Dozens of German districts and cities see major drop in Covid-19 cases

According to the local newspaper BZ, the Berlin city government plans to let restaurants open by Whitsun, which takes place on May 23rd this year.

Brandenburg, which has a lower level of infection than Berlin, has already confirmed that it wants to allow people to eat and drink in the outdoor areas of restaurants by the time the religious holiday comes around.

Müller said at he wanted to make a “compatible plan” with the neighbouring state.

Berlin economy Minister Ramona Pop signalled that her party, the Greens, also backs an opening strategy.

“It is good news if Berlin reaches the 100 incidence soon; then we can lift the federal emergency brake,” said Pop.

“Opening outdoor restaurants with a clear testing and hygiene concept can be a first step, because the risk of infection is significantly lower outdoors.”

READ ALSO: Germany pulls virus ’emergency brake’ but not everyone on board

Member comments

  1. Why would there need to be testing for people sitting outside? I can understand for the employees working in kitchens, but there was no testing last summer, just distance between groups. Considering there’s basically no distancing on the Landwehrkanal and no one is getting sick from being outside, I don’t understand this paranoia.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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.