1.2 Physical distancing
By May 7, 2021, both the Federal parliament and the Federal Council had approved a government ordinance to guarantee restored freedoms for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as those who have recovered from COVID-19 infections. The measures will apply as of May 9, 2021. Key points in the ordinance for the fully vaccinated and recovered include being able to:
• Meet without restrictions. They are also not counted in meetings with non-vaccinated/recovered. Curfew restrictions (10pm – 5 am) will not apply apply to them.
• Visit stores, hairdressers, zoos and other businesses without having to show a negative test result
• Avoid quarantine after traveling, unless they enter from an area designated as having a variant of the virus
• The obligation to wear a mask in designated places and social distance requirements in public spaces will still apply.
Given that the federal and state governments were unable to reach uniform decisions about restored freedoms for vaccinated residents at their meeting at the end of April, some states have started moving forward on their own. Many now give the vaccinated the same footing with those who have tested negative (to go shopping without needing a test and free from some quarantine regulations, for example).
As of May 7, 31,5% of the German population has received at least one vaccine. Some 8.8% of the population are fully vaccinated.
Stricter measures to curb coronavirus in autumn and winter - September and October
After a virtual conference between the Federal Chancellor and state leaders on September 29, new policies concerning the containment of COVID-19 were announced. First, if a district has more than 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, gatherings in public or rented rooms will be limited to a maximum of 50 participants in public or rented spaces. For celebration in private rooms, a maximum number of 25 people is strongly recommended, but it is not part of the formal regulation. If there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a district within seven days, the number of participants in public or rented spaces goes down to 25. Exceptions here could be made for registered celebrations with hygiene plans approved by public health officials. For private celebrations it is recommended to limit participants to 10 people. Furthermore, citizens who give false information about themselves in restaurants or bars will face a fine of EUR 50, with the states being responsible to implement this policy. Two letters will also be added to the “AHA formula” (which stands for distance, hygiene, masks [Abstand halten, Hygiene and Alltagsmaske]) - “C” and “L”, which stand for Corona Warn App and Lüften (ventilation).
On October 15, the government and federals states agreed on new measures to control the spread of COVID-19 this autumn and winter. In line with their hotspot strategy to combat the dynamics of infection, they decided to impose new restrictions when there are more than 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a week. The restrictions include the wearing of supplementary masks, a curfew at 11 pm and limitations for private celebrations If an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will become mandatory in all places where people have close contact for an extended period. The number of people allowed to gather will also be limited to 25 in public and 15 in private spaces. From 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days, private celebrations should be limited to a maximum of ten participants in public space and a maximum of ten participants from a maximum of two households in private space. If the new measures do not bring the increase to a halt, this will be reduced to up to five people or the members of two households. Likewise, with 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days, a curfew is to be imposed at 11 pm for the catering trade with bars and clubs being closed, the number of participants in events is limited to 100 persons (exceptions require a hygiene concept coordinated with the responsible health authority).
In regard to rising infection rates, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel used her weekly video podcast on October 17 to call on Germans to limit their contacts and refrain from travel. After describing the inherent difficulties of interrupting chains of infections by public health offices, Merkel emphasized the importance of coordination of federal, state and local governments as well as responsible behavior of the general population as key tools to avoid sweeping shutdowns.
With new infections growing rapidely, public health offices are struggling to effectively use contact tracing to try and root out chains of infections. In many cases across the country soldiers from the Bundeswehr are assisting to get through individual case backlogs, which are time consuming and face the possibility that the information from infected persons is not 100% accurate, leading to further time investment to sort out all details. At the moment, the RKI still recommends that health offices pursue each individual contact.
On October 28, the Chancellor and the state premiers announced a new partial lockdown to begin on November 2.
The new restrictions for November include:
- Restaurants and bars will close, except for take-away
- Large events will be canceled again
- Unnecessary travel is strongly discouraged
- Overnight stays in hotels for tourist purposes is banned
-All those who can work from home should do so and employers should ease a transition into working from home
- Meetings in public will be restricted to just two households of up to 10 people total.
- Entertainment facilities such as theaters and cinemas will be closed
- Public recreation centers such as swimming pools, gyms and saunas will be closed
- No crowds at sports events
What is allowed:
- Schools and kindergartens will remain open
- Church services and protests will be allowed to continue due to constitutional concerns
- Nursing home residents will be allowed to receive visitors
- Shops will remain open, with one customer allowed per 10 square meters (108 square feet)
- Borders remain open
Germany’s partial lockdown is set to be extended until at least December 20 following an agreement between the leaders of the federal states, with a decision for January scheduled to be made on December 15. Hotels, gyms and restaurants will remain closed, private gatherings will remain limited to five adults (from two different households) and mask decrees also stay in place. There will also be a holiday exception, from December 23 to January 1, where people from more than two households and up to 10 total (not counting those under 14 years of age) will be able to meet. The government is encouraging people who plan on meeting to self-isolate for several days ahead of this holiday exception. Furthermore, schools will start their holidays on December 19, 2020 and masks should be required from the 7th school year and up in areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents. In areas with more than 200 cases per 100,000 further measures can be implemented to reduce the number of students such as staggering school start times or distance learning on certain days per week The current economic programs to support businesses and the self-employed will receive further funding for December.
Following consultations between the Federal Chancellor and state leaders about Germany’s current wave of COVID-19 infections, it was decided on December 2 that the current partial lockdown will continue until January 10, with the exemptions agreed for the Christmas period. This means that restaurants, museums, theatres and recreational facilities will remain closed. The decision comes in the midst of death tolls at record highs and the target value of 50 new infections per 100,000 residents within seven days remaining elusive.
Continuously high infection rates & different restrictions in federal states around Christmas
Despite the partial lockdown since early November, which was expected to pull rates of infection back down to an acceptable level, infection numbers continue to remain at a high level and every day’s death tolls are far above levels of spring 2020. Germany’s hospitals are also pushed to their limits. According to the President of the German Hospital Federation (DKG), there are 40% more COVID-19 intensive care patients in hospitals than in spring 2020 and hospitals are coming under increased financial stress. Regarding these developments, a tightening of restrictions in Germany is becoming more likely. Several states have already announced tougher restrictions.
The Free State of Bavaria put stricter COVID-19 regulations into place on December 9. The state government has once again declared a “disaster” situation, moving crisis management responsibilities from the municipalities to the state government. Furthermore, residents should only leave their homes for justified trips and overnight curfews from 9pm to 5am will come into effect in local hotspots (200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days). Further, a maximum of five people from two households are allowed to meet. The regulations also include plans for dividing school classes into alternating classes and distance learning. The regulations are in place until January 5.
The state of Saxony enters a lockdown phase on December 14 by closing its schools, daycare centers and most stores, while grocery stores and stores for basic needs remain open. The lockdown will last until January 10 and includes a ban on alcohol in public places.
Complete lockdown between December 16 and January 10
On December 13, a complete lockdown was announced to be in place as of December 16. The new restrictions include shutdown of non-essential stores, along with closure of schools and day care centres. These new restrictions will be in effect until at least January 10 to help tackle the second wave:
-Schools are urged to send students home and continue lessons online as well as extending the Christmas holidays until January 10.
- Daycare centers will also close, but parents will be able to take paid holidays in order to look after their children
- Employers are encouraged to allow employees to work from home.
- People will not be allowed to drink alcohol in public.
- Religious events in churches, synagogues, and mosques may take place if they follow hygiene rules, but communal singing is not allowed.
- States still plan to ease stricter contact restrictions for December 24 to 26 so that close family members can spend Christmas together — a household may, during this time, invite up to four adults from other households but only from the immediate family, plus any number of children under 14.
- People may not purchase fireworks for New Year's Eve.
On January 5, Germany's state and federal governments agreed to extend and expand coronavirus lockdown rules that came into force on December 16 2020. The current lockdown regulations, including the closure of schools, will now be in place until at least January 31, and new rules have been introduced:
- Private meeting limits will be restricted to just one other person not living in the same household
- A hot spot travel ban will be introduced. From now on, residents of areas deemed coronavirus hotspots (7-day incidence > 200/100.000 inhabitants) will be restricted from traveling more than 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from their town without a valid reason. Day trips are specifically ruled out
- Double testing will be introduced. People arriving in Germany from high-risk areas will be required to submit two negative test results. A minimum five-day quarantine period will be mandated, even if the first test is negative
- Extra leave for parents will be introduced. Parents will receive an extra 10 days leave to look after children, while single parents will receive an extra 20 days.
The overall objective of tightened measures is to reduce the 7-day incidence below 50/100.000 inhabitants. It is expected that under this threshold public health offices are able to perform effective contact tracing again.
In a meeting between the Federal Chancellor and the heads of Germany’s federal states on January 19, an agreement was reached to extend the national lockdown (in place since December 16, 2020) until February 14, 2021. The leaders hope the extension will help reach a target incidence rate of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days by mid-February. A new requirement to wear medical masks (FFP2, KN95 or surgical masks) in public transportation, stores and during religious services was also agreed out of fear of the spread of new, more contagious mutations of the virus.
Furthermore, daycare centers and schools largely remain closed and employers are encouraged to extend options for working from home whenever possible. No new nationwide curfew was agreed to (though some states have already implemented their own) in addition to the previous rule of not traveling more than 15 kilometers from a hotspot that has an incidence of more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days. Economically, the federal government will extend further grants for companies’ fixed costs if they can demonstrate a significant drop in income due to the pandemic.
On January 21, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS) released a new Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance (SARS-CoV-2-Arbeitsschutzverordnung). Aim of this ordinance is to reduce the risk of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 at work and to protect the health and safety of employees. From January 26 on, employers must offer employees to carry out their work at home, if there are no compelling operational reasons to the contrary. This applies to any case of office work or comparable activities. The ordinance will expire on March 15, 2021.
On February 10, the current lockdown measures were extended and the threshold for a gradual re-opening of the rest of the economy has been tightened, targeting an infection rate of no more than 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, down from 50 previously. At the level of 35 cases per 100,000, non-essential stores, museums, services like beauty parlours will be allowed to re-open. Some exemptions were made: hairdressers are allowed to reopen at the beginning of March under strict hygiene requirements. Also child care facilities and schools will open gradually with precautionary measures such as ventilation, rapid tests and, where possible, high-quality masks. The federal states decide when and how re-opening of schools and day-care centers takes place. Federal states will gradually open schools mid-February (Saxony) or early March (see also Section 6.1).
Extension of lockdown and step-wise opening roadmap in March
The federal and state governments agreed on March 3 to extend the current measures to contain the Corona pandemic until 28 March 2021 but also to relax some lockdown restrictions stepwise. The opening steps depend predominantly on the current infection situation in a federal state or region. Starting March 8 meetings of up to five people from two different households (excluding children) are permitted and several types of shops (bookstores, florists and gardening stores) can open, with limits on customer capacities and hygiene concept in their shops. The same applies to service businesses that are still closed and close to the body, as well as driving and flying schools. They are allowed to reopen with safety plans with regular rapid or self-administered testing for staff. If no mask can be worn during services - such as cosmetic facial treatments - a daily negative rapid test must be presented by the customer and regular testing for staff is needed.
A third opening step is linked to a stable seven-day incidence of less than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents. In this case, a state can allow the opening of all shops with restrictions. Museums, galleries, zoos and botanical gardens, as well as memorials would be allowed to reopen (with appointment systems) and non-contact sports in small groups (with a maximum of 10 people) in outdoor areas is possible. If the incidence is above 50 but remains below 100 infections per 100,000 people, retailers are allowed to open for so-called appointment shopping (“click and meet”). It also includes reopening of other areas such as museums, zoos, group sports. If the seven-day incidence remains stable below 100 infections per 100 000 for 14 days, the fourth opening step applies (earliest as of March 22) with outdoor restaurants, theatres, concert halls and cinemas being then allowed to open (with testing and reservations booked in advance). If the incidence has not worsened for 14 days after the fourth stage, the fifth opening step can be taken. If the number of coronavirus infections per 100,000 residents in seven days stays below 50, outdoor recreational events with up to 50 people can be allowed, as well as indoor contact sports. Furthermore, if the 7-day incidence is stable or declining, and between 35 and 100 new infections/100,000 people, there would be less strict rules for entering shops. And non-contact sports indoors and contact sports outdoors would be allowed without testing.
If at any point the seven-day incidence rises back above 100 on three consecutive days, the emergency brake kicks in and the old strict lockdown rules (prior to March 8) apply (i.e. private get-togethers will only be possible with one's own household and one other person).
Prolonged lockdown beyond easter
Germany’s state and federal leaders agreed on March 23 to extend restrictions through the Easter holiday until April 18, 2021, in an effort to keep the health system from being overloaded in a third wave of infections. The extension continues to rely on the plan from earlier in the month which stated that if seven-day incidence rates rise to more than 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants (over a seven-day period) on three subsequent days, places such as shops and schools will be completely shut again (the so called ‘emergency break’). Further, the government is advising against all travel abroad and had agreed with airlines that returnees should be tested before flying. The decision marks a reversal from earlier announcement in March when state leaders agreed to begin a cautious reopening process.
Despite the agreement among the leaders of the 16 German states and the chancellor, each state can ultimately decide for itself when to impose or to lift restrictions. This has led to very different restrictions and measures across states and cities since autumn 2020.
On March 21, for the whole of Germany the seven-day incidence of new coronavirus infections has exceeded the critical benchmark of 100 which plays a key role for the emergency brake mechanism for tightening lockdown rules.
On April 21, 2021, the parliament passed an amendment to the Infection Protection Act empowering the federal government to apply a COVID-19 “emergency brake” and tighten measures as soon as certain incidence values for an individual county or city are reached. The amendment grants the federal government extra powers if caseloads exceed certain levels, and includes measures such as a nighttime curfew and limits on social contacts. Prior to this, the 16 states were largely free to implement those guidelines of the emergency brake (described above) as they saw fit leading to disparities across state in regard to implemented physical distancing measures: some states were opening up, despite exponential infection growth, while others remained closed.
In regard to these disparities, the federal government introduced the amendment to the Infection Protection Act to legally obligate the federal states to implement measures under certain circumstances. The following were included:
• If the seven-day incidence exceeds 100 new infections per 100,000 residents, nighttime curfews go into effect.
• At levels up to 150, stores will still be allowed to offer their customers shopping by appointment - provided customers get tested beforehand.
• At a seven-day incidence of 165, schools will have to return to distance learning.
The regulations will initially apply until the end of June. The emergency brake amendment came under sharp criticism from the political opposition before being passed by the governing coalition.
Gradual lift of lockdown measures: chronological order
On 15 April, the chancellor and the heads of Germany’s 16 states announced a plan to cautiously lift some of the lockdown measures. They agreed to extend coronavirus social distancing measures to at least 3 May, citing an early but fragile success in reducing stresses to the public health system. Merkel highlighted the need to continue to lower the reproduction rate (Rt), and that the government will be rolling out more precise testing and contact tracing strategies, as the virus was not evenly spreading throughout Germany. Physical distancing regulations, including a ban on gathering with more than one person outside of an individual's household, will remain in force until May 3.
The agreement achieved on April 15, allows car dealers, bicycle shops and bookstores to open as part of the first phase of easing restrictions from April 20. Meanwhile, shops up to 800 square meters will also be allowed to reopen. All shops are required to provide plans to maintain hygiene and strict conditions must be in place regarding access and queue control. (Shops considered essential, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores, have stayed open throughout the lockdown. Customers have been allowed to enter only in restricted numbers and asked to stay away from one another.)
The agreement states further:
• Hairdressers will be allowed to open their doors from 4 May, provided they too comply with strict hygiene measures. Restaurants, cinemas, bars and theaters have been given no starting date to reopen.
• Starting 4 May, schools will gradually and slowly reopen. Students preparing to leave secondary school are set to return to school first, on May 4, along with those leaving primary school but only after appropriate preparations of hygiene standards. However, in Bavaria, schools will not reopen until May 11. Day care centers and kindergartens are to remain closed. However, "emergency care" services will be provided and extended to parents of small children who have to go to work and for single parents. By April 29, the Conference of Education Ministers is to present a concept for further steps on how teaching can be resumed under special hygiene and protective measures.
• Large events remain banned until 31 August at the earliest. Further, the government is keeping its suspension on religious services. The government and the Robert Koch Institute are strongly recommending, but not requiring, that masks be worn on public transport and in shops.
• Everybody in Germany is still requested not to undertake any private travel or visits.
However, the federal states are largely responsible for how they enact restrictions to curb the novel coronavirus. Hence, they the decision on what can open and when is up to them. As of April 17, the federal states started to announce how they would ease the restrictions.
On April 17, the federal state Saxony is the first German state to make wearing a face mask on public transport and in stores a requirement as of April 20. At the same time, the federal state lifts its lockdown measures which have been much stricter than in other federal states. From April 20, people can leave the house without specific reason. Social distancing measures remain in place. On April 20, the federal states of Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania also announced to make wearing face masks a requirement in public transport. In the subsequent days, most federal states followed and announced similar rules and implemented regulations to wear (non-medical) face masks, mostly starting as of April 27 (partly earlier). This is applied to public transport and at retail in all states.
On April 30, the Chancellor and the heads of the 16 German states agreed that houses of worship, museums, gardens, zoos, playgrounds and monuments would be opened under certain conditions in the coming days for visitors after weeks of lockdown. The federal states have the final word on opening churches and other places of worship. The country's social distancing measures stay in place at least until May 10.
On May 1, the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt was the first state to announce to ease physical distancing measures. The state, which has registered relatively second few cases of coronavirus within Germany (behind Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), is allowing people to meet up in groups of five as of May 4.
On May 6, the Chancellor announced lockdown rollback for the coming weeks. While contact restrictions were extended until 5 June, the federal government and the states agreed that members of two households (two families, two couples or the members of two shared flats) may meet again. However, a distance of 1.5 meters must be kept. Parts of the economy will reopen. In general, the federal states assume responsibility for further relaxation of restrictions. The decisions taken at federal level constitute a framework for federal states to determine the next stages of the lockdown. This allows a differentiated response to regional outbreaks and infection rates. The government also announced an ‘emergency break’: once infection rates spread to more than 50 acute cases per 100,000 people in a given area within seven days, new lockdowns would be put in place in the respective region (see also Section 1.4).
The relaxed regulations agreed on May 6 include:
• All stores are allowed to reopen, without square meter restrictions. Stores must ensure hygiene measures, access control and avoid queues.
• Mouth and nose protectors must be worn when shopping and on public transport. This regulation could be extended to other areas in the coming days.
• Employees with cold symptoms can have their doctor write a sick note by telephone until at least May 18.
• Schools will reopen in phases and emergency care services for children will be extended in all states from May 11. Federal states will decide when schools and childcare facilities will fully reopen before the summer. However, most universities will continue with distance learning.
• Seniors in care homes in some states will be allowed to receive visitors provided there is no active COVID-19 case in the facility, and in some cases, only if the visitors are older than 16.
• Outdoor sports for children and non-professional leagues would also be allowed to take place.
• The reopening of cinemas, theaters and restaurants remains unclear, each state is reviewing rules for restarting these parts of the economy.
• In most states, religious services will resume.
• Germany's soccer league, the Bundesliga, will be allowed to resume games in the second half of May, as long as games are played behind closed doors. The decision now passes to the German Football League (DFL) as to when to restart play.
On May 11, Germany's 16 states rolled back further COVID-19 restrictions. Each state has defined news rules individually resulting in a landscape of different rules across Germany. For example, restaurants have reopened for locals in the western states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, albeit under strict rules that separate guests by at least 1.5 meters on May 11. Museums and art galleries were also allowed to open their doors again in Hamburg, Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Lower Saxony. In Bavaria, outdoor seating areas of restaurants are allowed to open only on May 18 while indoor seating in restaurants is permitted to open again starting on May 25 and hotels can welcome guests again on May 30.
In general, restaurants may gradually reopen. The distances between the individual tables and hygiene concepts must be strictly observed. The federal states are responsible for deciding how to organize the opening, resulting in differences in the reopening of restaurants. In most federal states, restaurants are allowed to receive guests between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, the northwestern state of Schleswig-Holstein, the northeastern state of Brandenburg and the southern state of Bavaria, residents are now once again allowed to meet in public with people from a different household. People in Bavaria can also meet with family members who do not live in their home provided they are directly related (i.e. children, parents, siblings). In Berlin and the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, massage studios, nail parlors and tattoo studios as well as other "physically-close services" can now reopen under strict regulations. In Saxony-Anhalt, visitors are once again permitted in retirement homes and senior care facilities. Residents are permitted an hour-long visit with one visitor per day, as long as that person wears a mask.
The federal states are responsible for determining the scope for smaller public or private events or celebrations, as well as non-festive events. E.g. in Berlin, for example, up to 20 people can come together - provided there is a compelling reason for this. This includes, for example, looking after people in need of help, accompanying people who are dying, attending a funeral service or a baptism or wedding ceremony. Hygiene and distance rules must always be met. Large events such as folk festivals, larger sporting events with spectators, larger concerts and festivals continue to be prohibited until at least August 31.
On May 26, the head of the federal chancellery and the heads of the federal states agreed that contact restrictions will be extended until 29 June. Part of the agreement is that federal states may allow public gatherings of up to 10 people which belong to two households. People in public must continue to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 metres. This measure is being supplemented by an obligation to wear a mask in certain public areas. Distancing and hygiene measures should also be implemented in private gatherings at home in closed spaces. The number of persons permitted depends on the space available and thus the possibility to adhere to the rule on distancing. What is more, adequate ventilation must be ensured. The number of persons should be restricted accordingly. Wherever possible, private gatherings should be held outside where there is a considerably lower risk of infection. The identities of the participants should be known. The measures are slightly different in Thuringia (see above), Hesse and Lower Saxony. For the time being, Hesse will retain the restriction that individuals can go outside either on their own or together with one other person of another household or with members of their own household. Lower Saxony reserves the right to uphold its regulation limiting contact to two households.
On June 9, the state government of Thuringia announced as the first of the 16 German federal states to lift contact restrictions as of June 13. The state cabinet agreed on a new basic regulation that recommends citizens to meet with only one household or with a maximum of ten people. However, minimum distances should be kept wherever possible and wearing mouth-nose protection will remain compulsory in public transport and shops. The new regulation also allows swimming pools, cinemas, saunas, thermal baths to reopen their doors, provided that their hygiene concepts are approved.
On June 17, the heads of the federal states and the head of the chancellor agree that large events remain banned until the end of October. The ban was previously in place until August 31. Exceptions can be made if contact tracing and compliance with hygiene regulations is ensured at certain events. Further, they decided that schools and kindergartens will take up regular operation after the summer holidays, if possible.
Local outbreaks and lockdown measures
On June 23, in response to an outbreak in a meat processing plant in the district of Guetersloh and the neighbouring district of Warendorf (both North Rhine-Westphalia), where more than 1500 employees have been tested positive for COVID-19, a local lockdown has been implemented to contain the spread. Many of the measures that were implemented nationwide during the initial lockdown will be brought back, including:
• Contact restrictions now only allow for families or people living in the same household to meet. In public spaces, only people from the same household or two people from different households may meet,
• Museums, theatres, cinemas and gyms will close. The same applies to bars, venues and swimming pools. Outdoor barbecues will also be prohibited again. Concerts and other events are not allowed,
• A quarantine for employees and contractors of the meat processing plant will be enforced. Mobile teams will be accompanied by interpreters for Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian and by the police,
• Shops and restaurants can remain open under certain restrictions,
• Already since June 18, all schools and day-care centres in the district have been closed.
The measures are first in place to determine how widespread the outbreak is, and will be valid until June 30. There is currently no ban on leaving the districts. Testing will be expanded and be available also for people without symptoms within the district of Guetersloh.
On June 29, the authorities announced that the lockdown on the community of Warendorf will be lifted, but that it is extended in Guetersloh for an adiitional week. A recent mass testing of nearly 40,000 people in the two districts showed that the spread had taken place in Gütersloh with some 112 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within the past seven days. while the rate of contagion was much slower in Warendorf.
Regional roadmaps for further easing restriction measures
On June 30, the federal states agreed on a roadmap forward for easing some remaining COVID-19 restrictions. The plans differ a bit between states, but reflect the understanding that local outbreaks like the ones seen in Guetersloh, Goettingen and specific apartment complexes in Berlin require local or regional measures. In Saxony, for example, a new plan has been developed to deal with local outbreaks. An early warning system will be triggered in the state if 20 new infections per 100,000 residents are recorded within seven days. The first restrictions would come into place if the cases topped 35 per 100,000 residents and would cancel events and reimplement some distancing measures. If the number reaches 50 cases per 100,000 then limitations on freedom of movement and contact restrictions will be triggered. Mandatory testing would then apply for certain professions and population groups. In Bremen, events of up to 250 people will be permitted indoors from July 1, along with up to 400 people in open air settings. Keeping distances of 1.5 meters from others is still required, and event organizers must collect the names of participants. In Saxony-Anhalt, bans on contacts will be dropped and recommendations that no more than ten people should meet will come into effect on July 2. Some bans on smaller events will also be relaxed on that day, with private celebrations allowed to have 50 instead of 20 participants and going up to 500 on August 29. The state government plans to evaluate the effectiveness of these relaxations on a month-to-month basis. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, restrictions on contact in public spaces will be lifted on July 10. Restaurants will also be able to have longer hours, flea markets will return and sporting events can welcome attendees once more. A requirement for distance between people not from the same family will remain in place, and an official recommendation to cover noses and mouths at meetings will also stay in place. Finally, the total people permitted to meet indoors will go from 100 to 200 as long proper hygienic accommodations are taken, and outdoor events will go from 300 to 500.
On July 16, the heads of the federal states and the head of Federal Chancellery agreed to a plan to apply targeted, local measures when new outbreaks occur and not have to shut down entire districts. The restrictions such as bans on entry and leaving an area should be targeted at the location of the outbreak. This solution came after several state government leaders said they wouldn’t lock down entire districts based on local outbreaks and any local travel restrictions or further measures on group gatherings would be imposed only if new cases continue to rise. In the event of a local outbreak, federal and state authorities should furthermore provide support for additional testing and contact tracing to keep any potential restrictions as short as possible.
Stricter measures to curb coronavirus in late summer
On August 27, agreements were reached in several areas after a virtual meeting between the Federal Chancellor and the heads of the 16 states:
• A violation of the obligation to wear either a mask or something that covers the mouth and nose in shops and on public transport will incur a fine of at least EUR 50 nationwide. The exception to this is the state of Saxony-Anhalt, which did not want to introduce the policy because of low numbers of cases. On regional trains, the state transport ministers are to further examine how noncompliant passengers are to be dealt with.
• The free testing that has been available for travelers returning to Germany from abroad will be made available to only those coming back from designated risk areas starting on September 16 (see also section 1.5 Transition measures: testing).
• Furthermore, the federal and state governments want to ensure that no compensation for loss of income will be paid to people who have to quarantine if they willingly chose to travel to a risk area which was already designated as such before their departure.
• Major events where contact tracking and compliance with hygiene regulations is not possible should not take place until at least the end of December 2020
• Digitalisation in schools is to be promoted. The federal government wants to support the states with an immediate program of an additional EUR 500 million
• Child health benefit: This year, legally insured persons entitled to child health benefits will be granted five additional days to care for a sick child. Single parents are to receive ten additional days (see also Section 6.1)
• On the topic of private gatherings, the states were unable to agree on an upper limit for participants. Instead, Germans are asked to "critically weigh" in each individual case whether private celebrations are "necessary" and "justifiable." Currently, in the states of Saxony and Baden-Wuerttemberg up to 100 people are allowed to meet at family celebrations in a restaurant or a rented room. In Schleswig-Holstein, on the other hand, only up to 50 people are allowed at private parties. In Hamburg the maximum is 25.
Initially, social distancing was advised only for those who were isolating, either because they were cases, contacts of confirmed cases or had returned from a high-risk area but remained asymptomatic. On March 10, the government recommended cancellation of events and public gatherings with 1000 or more people. In the days following this initial recommendation, the federal states suspended all public gatherings and events with more than 1000 people.
There are no nation-wide regulations on physical distancing given the federal governance structure of the country. Each federal state takes own decision on restrictions, school closing etc. based on their pandemic preparedness plans (see section 5. Governance). However, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in Germany, the federal states largely agreed on similar measures to delay the spread of infection and the associated burden on the healthcare system. On March 13, most German federal states decided to close their schools, nurseries, universities and cultural institutions from 16 March until mid-April (dates differ slightly by federal state). As of March 16, the heads of all federal states and the chancellor decided that also bars, clubs, theatres, discotheques, pubs, operas, concert halls, public libraries, cinemas, leisure parks (indoor and outdoor), museums, trade fairs, exhibitions, zoos, special markets, amusement arcades, casinos, betting shops, prostitution businesses, brothels, sports in public and private sports facilities, swimming pools, gyms and playgrounds would be closed. Restaurants, cafeterias and hotels could remain open from 6 am to 6 pm. Supermarkets, chemist's shops, banks, pet shops, and all business that sell essential basic needs are allowed extended opening times including on Sundays, while non-essential shops are to be closed at all times.
On 17 March 2020 the government released more extensive recommendations for the public on physical distancing. People are advised to stay at home, to keep physical distance from others, to avoid use of public transport, public gatherings and shopping during peak hours; to work from home if possible and to avoid traveling within the country. The public was also advised to avoid close contact with individuals considered vulnerable (elderly people and those with chronic conditions).
On 20 March, Bavaria was the first state to declare a curfew, inspired by and identical to Austria. On Sunday (March 22), the chancellor agreed with all heads of federal states on more drastic restrictions on public and social life to be implemented nationwide. However, the restrictions are not as far reaching as the curfew agreed in Bavaria and movement restrictions agreed in Saxony where leaving the house will only be permitted in certain circumstances. Most federal states introduced the following measures:
• Public gatherings of more than two people will be banned. There will be exceptions for families and those living together.
• General contact with others should be reduced to a minimum.
• A 1.5-meter distance should be kept at all times when in public.
• Gastronomy businesses must close. Businesses offering food delivery and collection will be allowed to remain open.
• Service providers such as hairdressers, cosmetic, massage and tattoo studios where a 2-meter distance between people is not
possible must also close. Businesses and centers offering medical treatments may remain open.
• Police and other law enforcement agencies will enforce any infractions of the new rules — Merkel did not state what the punishment
would be for anyone not abiding by the new measures.
• Hygiene regulations must be implemented for staff in the workplace, or for visitors.
• Commuting to work, helping others and exercising alone outside will still be permissible, as long as the activities are carried out in abidance with the guidelines.
• The measures will remain in place, initially for the next two weeks.
Special regulations are defined for visitors of long-term care institutions and hospitals. In most federal states visitors to nursing homes and hospitals are not permitted except if they are for medical reason, in case of end-of-life care or parents of sick children (this holds in Bavaria, Brandenburg, Baden-Wurttemberg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia). In all other federal states, there is a limitation on visitors to hospitals and nursing homes of maximum one visit per day for one hour.
On April 1, the social distancing restrictions were extended until April 19, through the end of the Easter holiday break. On April 2, many federal states have implemented catalogues of fines for those breaking the rules, and not keeping the advised 1.5-meter distance between people. For example, Berlin’s catalogue foresees a fine of EUR 25 to 500 if people form groups of more than two people and possibly resist the police's demands. Fines for companies that infringe the restrictions are considerably higher with up to EUR 10,000 euros for example for opening of shops. According to the catalogue of fines in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia gatherings in groups of more than two are fined EUR 200, and picnics and barbecues with EUR 250. Operating a bar, club or gym will be fined EUR 5.000.
On April 1, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) updated its position regarding people wearing protective face masks when people go out in public. The use of temporary masks in public spaces where the safety distance cannot be maintained (e.g. public transport, grocery stores or even at the workplace) also by people without coronavirus symptoms (that might however have an asymptomatic infection of COVID-19) could help to prevent the risk of transmission. Previously, the RKI recommended that only people with acute respiratory infections should wear protective face masks. At national level there is currently no obligation to wear masks. Only few communities (Jena and Landkreis Nordhausen Stadt) decided on March 31 to make wearing protective masks obligatory in public transport and shops.
A summary of the measures taken by the federal government until mid-April can be found in the document “Measures by the Federal Government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and address its impacts”: