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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‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.


Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

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