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Outdoor dining and swimming pools: How Berlin plans to reopen in May

In light of low coronavirus figures, Berlin is set to take several opening steps starting Wednesday May 19th. We break down what they are, and which rules still apply.

Outdoor dining and swimming pools: How Berlin plans to reopen in May
Chairs stacked outside of a closed restaurant in Berlin-Mitte on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The Berlin Senate’s plan to reopen dining and other aspects of public life, first announced last week, comes as Covid-19 cases continue to fall in Berlin.

As of Monday May 17th, Berlin reported a 7-day incidence of 68.6 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). For five days the number has been below the desired 7-day incidence of 100.

The first rule relaxations are set to kick in as of Wednesday May 19th. Furthermore, as of Friday May 21st, dining guests will be allowed to sit and order at outdoor areas of restaurants, cafes and bars as long as they show a negative coronavirus test. 

However, they will be exempt from the requirement if they can show proof that they have been fully vaccinated, or recovered from a Covid-19 infection. 

Further opening steps in Berlin

Kitas (daycare centres) opened again on Monday for all families, regardless of whether parents work in a ‘system relevant’ job, as was required before for emergency care.

The following openings are additionally set to take place on Wednesday.

Stores
Shopping at stores beyond those for everyday needs (for examples, supermarkets and pharmacies) will no longer require an appointment, according to the Senate Commerce Department, but social distancing requirements remain.

Stores up to 800 square metres would then be allowed one customer per 10 square metres of store space, with larger stores subject to the 20-square-metre-per-customer rule.

READ ALSO: Berlin plans restaurants openings as Covid cases fall

Sports

Outdoor sports will also be allowed again – with restrictions. 

For example, children up to the age of 14 are to be allowed to play sports again in groups of up to 20 people. People over the age of 14 are also to be allowed to play sports again in a group of up to 10 people from May 21st. 

Beach and open-air swimming pools are also to be allowed to reopen as long as they have hygiene plans in place.”We will announce shortly what the rules and pools will be,” wrote the Berliner Bäderbetriebe (Berlin’s swimming pool operator).

If new infection figures continue to stay low, Berlin will be set to begin its next opening steps on June 4th, reported the Tagesspiegel on Monday. These include reopening fitness studios and dance studios, as long as visitors book an appointment in advance and show a negative test.

Weekly markets
Weekly markets may be visited without a negative coronavirus test.

Cultural venues
Cinemas, theaters, opera houses, concert halls and cultural event venues will be allowed to open outdoors for visitors, with a maximum of 250 people. A negative coronavirus test will be required if there if no fixed seating.

Tourism

City tours and boat excursions for tourist purposes with appointment booking and negative testing should also be possible again in the capital.

Berlin is also set to reopen hotels and guest houses again on June 4th if the 7-day incidence continues to stay below 100.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller warned against carelessness in view of the falling incidence figures. “It would really be a bad situation if, through imprudent behavior, we very quickly get back into a situation where incidences are rising,” he said. 

A 7-day incidence of around 100 is a “crisis number,” he said. “All is well only at ten or even below,” Müller said.

Opening steps nationwide

Since the beginning of November, all of Germany has been in a state of shutdown, which has seen restaurants and cafes close their doors except for takeout and delivery, and tourism infrastructure – such as hotels and guesthouses – close except for business or essential travellers.

A few regional opening projects – such as in the state of Saarland – allowed for outdoor dining around the Easter holidays, but under the nationwide ’emergency brake’ measures, most were forced to close after infection numbers crept up again in the third Covid wave.

Now more states are continuing to open up again. Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein completely reopened for tourism on Monday, and also allowed both the inside and outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes to open for the public.

READ ALSO: Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

The opening steps tie in with Whitsun, known as Pfingsten in German, which falls on Monday May 24th this year, and is a national public holiday. 

Last week Bavaria also announced plans to not only open outdoor dining, but also tourism infrastructure, over the long weekend. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria plans to open for tourists on May 21st

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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