Germany: Merkel Announces Rules for New Normality

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the First Ministers from Germany’s federal states have defined the way the country intends to return to some kind of normality. After six and a half weeks of restrictions, the changes benefit many, including the food service industry.

Legally, Germany’s federal states were always responsible for big decisions, including Corona rules. So far, Chancellor Merkel and the First Ministers, or ‘Ministerpräsidenten’, which is their official German title, synchronized the most important rules in order to avoid a chaos. From now on, in an improved situation what Corona is concerned, the provinces and city states intend to decide on their own again.

The Ground Rules

But there are ground rules the states agreed to with Angela Merkel. Some of them were known beforehand.

  • The distance rules remain in place, meaning people are supposed to keep a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) to others. This rule will definitely not change until June 5th, 2020, and it might be prolonged further. Masks have to be worn in shops and public transport.
  • Merkel and the First Ministers agreed to a change of the contact rules. People from two households may now meet. Until now, individuals had the right to meet up to one person from a different household.
  • The federal states can open all shops, malls and department stores. But there needs to be a defined maximum of customers for a certain square footage in the sales area. It is all about room and distance.
  • Soccer is a very important subject in Germany. Die-hard fans are very unhappy as long as there are no matches. Televised ‘ghost games’ without audiences on site may now take place later this month. The German ‘Bundesliga’ (‘federal league’) will continue from mid-May. This applies to the 1st and 2nd divisions.
  • Certain kinds of sports, ‘contact-less’ ones, will be legal again too. The federal states have already prepared a concept. For instance, tennis and golf do not include a lot of risk regarding getting affected with the Coronavirus. Other kinds of outdoor sports activities will be legal again too.
  • What schoolkids are concerned, they will be allowed to return to school on a step-by-step basis determined by the federal states, and under strict rules, before the summer vacations commence.
  • In kindergartens, an “extended emergency care” will apply. This means children whose parents cannot care for them during the day, and those whose parents work for the police or at hospitals, will be allowed to return to kindergartens from May 11th, 2020.
  • Playgrounds may be opened too. Children aged 7 or younger do not have to adhere to the distance rule.
  • Individuals who are being treated or cared for in hospitals or homes for the elderly may soon welcome one specific visitor multiple times as long as there is no Corona outbreak in the establishment.
  • The existing ban of large events, until August 31st, 2020, remains in place.
  • Strict hygiene rules apply in all areas, including the industry.

Merkel Comments on Decisions

From the start, Angela Merkel had insisted on a limit regarding the number of Corona infections. In case more than 50 individuals per 100,000 inhabitants get infected in a county or town within a week, new restrictions will apply in that region.

Merkel said in Berlin, two things had been very important to her. Those had included a return to kindergartens for smaller children. “We all know children want to return to a normal life”, she said.

Elderly people, including those in homes for the elderly, were also entitled to have a social life, Mrs. Merkel said. Therefore the new rule according to which they can now have a “reference person” was an important matter to her personally as well.

Söder and Tschentscher Comment

Bavaria’s First Minister Markus Söder, who was in Berlin with the Chancellor and Hamburg’s First Mayor Peter Tschentscher, said a good compromise had been reached. He stressed there was a need to improve the pay for caretakers and nurses after the crisis. Söder stated he knew some decisions, including the one about soccer, were controversial.

First Mayor Tschentscher said big successes in the fight against the Corona pandemic had been reached. In Hamburg, new infections had decreased “to a low two-digit number per day”. The federal states were taking big responsibilities now. “I hope they will handle those well”, Tschentscher stated. In the coming weeks, more decisions would have to be taken.

A Hundred Days of Corona in Germany

Exactly 100 days ago, on January 27th, 2020, the first Coronavirus case in Germany was confirmed. The patient was a man from Bavaria. He was infected during a workshop with a Chinese colleague from Shanghai who did not know she was carrying the virus.

On March 23rd, or 44 days ago, the contact ban kicked in. People were not allowed to leave their homes without good reasons, including shopping for food or medication, walking a dog, training outdoors or taking a walk alone or with their families. At that moment, there were already more than 29,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases in Germany. Now there are 167,000.

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