Hamburg to open restaurants earlier than planned as Covid incidence falls below 50 mark

Hamburg is to allow outdoor dining in restaurants - without a negative coronavirus test - earlier than planned due to a significant drop in the Covid-19 incidence rate.

Hamburg to open restaurants earlier than planned as Covid incidence falls below 50 mark
An outdoor table at a restaurant in Hamburg in May 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

On Tuesday, the city recorded a 7-day incidence of 42.5 Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days – below the threshold of 50.

Hamburg, which brought in ’emergency brake’ measures including a curfew ahead of many other parts of Germany, has seen a huge drop in cases in recent weeks.

The 7-day incidence has fallen below the 50 mark for the first time since mid-October 2020, cementing it as one of the regions in Germany with the lowest number of Covid infections.

Mayor of the Hanseatic city, Peter Tschentscher, said outdoor dining in cafes, restaurants and beer gardens will be allowed from Saturday, and non-essential shops will be allowed to open with some restrictions. Originally, the reopening of restaurants was planned for June.

What are the new rules?

For retailers, there will be a limit on the number of customers allowed in a shop, while shoppers must also submit their personal data for contact tracking.

Shoppers do not have to show a negative Covid-19 test as long as the incidence value remains stable below 50. In other parts of Germany where the 7-day incidence remains below 100 Covid cases per 100,000 but above 50, a negative Covid test is mandatory for non-essential shops.

READ ALSO: Where in Europe are Covid curfews and early closures still in place?

The same applies to outdoor catering, where a maximum of five people from two households can sit at one table. Unlike in most other parts of Germany beginning to open up, negative coronavirus tests are not required as long as the 7-day incidence remains stable at below 50.

Furthermore, so-called personal body services, such as beauty salons, and practical driving lessons will be possible again. However, negative coronavirus tests are needed for these services. 

Outdoor swimming pools will also open again with requirements, including negative Covid tests. And up to 20 children can play outdoor sports, while up to 10 adults can play non-contact group sports outdoors.

According to the step-by-step opening plan of the Hamburg government, five people from a maximum of two households will be allowed to meet and socialise from the weekend onwards.

Meanwhile, the mandatory mask requirement in Hamburg’s parks and green spaces will no longer be required. Masks will only be mandatory in areas where a minimum distance can’t be maintained.

Tschentscher said outdoor cultural and sporting events can also take place with fixed seats, an appointment booking, contact tracing and mandatory testing, with a limit of 250 people.

And on May 28th, theatre shows and concerts will be allowed to reopen if Covid numbers remain low.

The city state has taken one of the toughest lines in the Covid-19 pandemic compared to other parts of Germany, with mayor Tschentsher opting for a cautious approach.

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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