Authorities have finally reached an agreement on the new lockdown restrictions for December – and what it means for the Christmas holiday period.
“We have two messages for the people. Firstly, thank you, but secondly, the current restrictions will not be lifted,” Angela Merkel said in a press conference on Wednesday. “The exponential rise in infections is broken. But the daily cases are still far too high, and our intensive care stations are still very full. We cannot lift the restrictions agreed for November.”
A meeting of the Berlin Senat decided that the loosening of contact restrictions for private meetings over the holidays, agreed upon by the federal and state governments, will not apply in the “hotspot” capital. This means more stringent mask regulations and tighter contact restrictions over Christmas, contrary to the rest of the country.
Many of the measures that were set into place this November will be extended nationwide for another three weeks, at least until December 22. Hotels, bars, restaurants and fitness centres will remain shut. People are still strongly advised to stay home as much as possible, avoiding unnecessary travel and contact.
Here are the main points from yesterday’s press conference and today’s updated decisions for Berlin.
Christmas rules (from December 23 to January 1)
- A maximum of five people are allowed to meet at Christmas. No specifications were made as to how many households they could come from. Children up to 12 years of age are excluded.
- People are encouraged to self-isolate several days before and after this period
- Churches may be allowed to conduct festive ceremonies, though should aim to avoid large services
New Year’s Rules
- Setting off fireworks in the streets will be discouraged and possibly prohibited in busy public places
- The sale, purchase and release of fireworks is not outright banned
Updated restrictions (until December 22):
- No more than five people from two different households may meet in private; children under 12 are not included in this count
- Masks remain mandatory in public buildings, shops and public transport
- Masks may be required where large groups congregate outdoors and on busy streets where there is more potential contact
- Travel for holidays, especially ski vacations is strongly discouraged until January 10
- To avoid overcrowding for Christmas shopping retail shops have a limited capacity of one customer per 10 square metres (108 square feet) according to sales areas up to 800 square meters. In the case of shops that are larger, a maximum of one person per 20 square meters. Mask requirements now extend in front of shops and in parking lots
- Start of Christmas holidays will vary from region to region, with some states finishing school as early as December 19
- Masks are required in classes from year seven and upwards, in areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents (previously only required when moving around, not at desks) *Schools with no infections may be exempt
- Home schooling decisions rest with individual states
- Universities to conduct as many remote classes as possible; exceptions being laboratory and art studio classes
- Existing programs supporting businesses, clubs, societies and the self-employed to be extended
- States set to encourage federal government to extend bridging loans until mid-2021 for businesses in industries that have been particularly effected and see no sign of reprieve, such as cultural, travel and the event sector
What stays closed:
- All cultural and entertainment venues including theatres, cinemas, clubs, concert halls and opera houses
- Restaurants, pubs and bars remain open for delivery and collection of food only
- Amusement parks, arcades, casinos, brothels and betting shops
- Public recreation centres such as gyms, fitness studios, swimming pools and saunas
- Cosmetic studios, tattoo parlours and massage practices
What’s remaining open:
- Schools and day care centres
- Shops (with capacity restrictions)
- Hair salons
- Physiotherapy practices
- Borders, though international travel is discouraged
What’s still permitted:
- Church services and protests, largely due to constitutional concerns
- Nursing home residents receiving visitors
- Travel for business purposes
- Professional sporting events, without spectators
These announcements came at the end of a seven-hour video conference with the 16 state premiers on Wednesday. That day, Germany reached its highest-ever daily death count from the coronavirus, with 410 deaths, bringing the total death toll up to 14,771.
There is another deliberation scheduled for December 15 to come up with a decision for January, but many state leaders assume that a continuation of the restrictions will be necessary.