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Indoor dining and gyms: How Berlin’s new eased Covid rules affect you

On Friday, Berlin is reopening more of public life earlier than planned due to falling Covid numbers. Here's a look at the plans and what you can expect in the coming weeks.

Indoor dining and gyms: How Berlin's new eased Covid rules affect you
A guest enjoying outdoor dining in Berlin on May 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Indoor dining reopens – with testing

Due to a sharp drop in the infection rate in the capital, Berlin’s planned step-by-step reopening plan is being brought forward. 

The Berlin Senate announced the new roadplan out of lockdown on Tuesday. 

From Friday June 4th, restaurants – and other hospitality venues like bars and cafes – can open their indoor space for guests. People who want to eat or drink indoors will need to provide a negative Covid test, senator for economic affairs Ramona Pop (Greens) said on Friday. 

People can also show proof of being fully vaccinated or their recent recovery from Covid-19.

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Bars and restaurants can open longer

From Friday, the ban on selling alcohol will change. It will be in place from 12 midnight until 5am, rather than 11pm to 5am. That means restaurants and bars can stay open for an hour longer.

No Covid test needed for terraces or shopping

Meanwhile, mandatory Covid testing for visiting all shops and for outdoor dining is being lifted from June 4th.

It means that people visiting an outdoor terrace or going shopping will no longer have to show they have had a recent negative rapid Covid test. 

“This makes it possible to sit down for a quick coffee,” Pop said. Contact tracing has to remain in place. 

“These are big steps we are taking here,” Pop said. “We hope that caution will continue.

Flea markets will also be allowed to reopen. 

Gyms can open

Starting Friday, gyms and other fitness studios have also been given the green light to reopen, with restrictions such as mandatory testing and limits on the number of people. 

READ ALSO: ‘Feels like we’re free again’: Berliners enjoy outdoor dining as restrictions ease

Indoor sport in groups of a maximum of 10 people can take place, with compulsory testing for adults.

Outdoor swimming pools already opened on May 21st, and continue to require an appointment and negative test.

READ ALSO: Germans return to pools and beer gardens as some Covid curbs lifted

Events and culture

Under the plans, outdoor events with up to 500 participants will also be allowed again, while indoor events can permit 100 people. With technical ventilation of areas, 500 people is also possible.

Testing will be “generally compulsory” with groups above 250 people outdoors and for indoor events, compulsory testing will be in place for groups of 11 people or more. Hygiene plans will be needed for all events. 

Cinemas and other cultural facilities will also be allowed to reopen with rules similar to those of events. 

Culture Senator Klaus Lederer (the Left) said: “Notable cultural events will be possible from Friday again.”

For museums, galleries as well as memorials, a negative coronavirus test is generally no longer needed as of Friday. But restrictions will remain such as limits on number of people – so check in case you need to book a spot before visiting a venue or if there are other requirements.

Social contact rules eased

Private meetings will be allowed with more people from Friday. Up to six people from three households will be allowed to meet indoors, and up to 10 people from five households can meet outdoors. Up until this point two households with up to five people have been allowed to meet. 

Children under 14 are not included in the contact rules. 

Under nationwide rules, fully vaccinated people and those who’ve recently recovered from Covid-19 do not face contact restrictions. 

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Funerals and weddings

Private events for special occasions such as funeral ceremonies, weddings and baptisms will be allowed with up to 50 people outdoors and indoors from Friday. Compulsory testing is needed with groups of more than 11 people.

Universities 

Universities can open libraries, pools and work rooms as well as hold face-to-face events in small groups with hygiene plans. 

Schools

The Senate says Berlin schools can fully return to face-to-face teaching starting June 9th. This will then apply for the last two weeks before summer holidays begin. 

Hotels to welcome tourists 

Hotels in Berlin will also be allowed to reopen to tourists earlier than previously planned. They will be allowed to accommodate guests again from June 11th. There will be no occupancy limits, but hygiene concepts will continue to apply, as well as testing requirements. The date has been coordinated with Brandenburg.

Opening of hotels in Berlin was originally scheduled for June 18th.

Why is Berlin moving the reopening forward?

Berlin has seen a large decline of coronavirus cases in recent weeks. On Tuesday the 7-day incidence rate stood at 33.6 Covid cases per 100,000 people. In neighbouring Brandenburg, the 7-day incidence has dropped to 18.4 statewide.

“We’ve really been able to bring the numbers down in the last few days significantly, as few expected,” said Berlin’s mayor Michael Müller (SPD). “We’ve done well to get through the year and a half.”

“Against the backdrop of falling numbers, it is right to give back as much as possible as early as possible in terms of opportunities for movement, in sports and hospitality. We’ve brought a lot of things forward.”

Opening steps nationwide

Germany entered a shutdown to try and slow the spread of Covid in November 2020, but reopening of public life has been happening across the country in recent weeks, often with mandatory testing requirements. 

READ ALSO: IN PHOTOS: How Germany is reopening after more than six months of Covid shutdown

On Tuesday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said the danger level for Germany had been downgraded to “high” rather than “very high” risk.  

“The situation is getting significantly better,” Spahn said, “but we are still in the middle of this pandemic.”

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COVID-19 RULES

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”

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