Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state leaders have agreed to impose a harder lockdown from this Wednesday, December 16. Decided after just over an hour of deliberation on Sunday morning, the shutdown follows the week with the highest number of new infections and deaths since the pandemic began.
“The measures which we began on November 2 have not been enough,” Merkel said after the meeting. “The health system is under heavy strain and our aim has always been to avoid an overloading of the healthcare system.”
The decision will be a major disruption to retailers, education centres and the general public. New restrictions will be in place until at least January 10.
What are the new restrictions for Berlin?
- Only retailers and services deemed essential will remain open. These include: food shops, chemists, drugstores, opticians, dentists, medical supply stores, petrol stations, greengrocers, butchers, weekly food markets, pet supply shops, car repair shops, bicycle repair shops, banks and bookshops. Christmas tree sales also remain permitted.
- Schools will close for in-person classes until January 10. Pupils will be given work to do at home and online
- Daycare centres will provide emergency care only; there are opportunities for parents to take paid leave to look after their children during this period
- The rule of five still exists: five people from two households may socialise, with children under 14 excluded in the count
- Employers to consider closing or allowing generous home office solutions in this period. However, this is a request not a requirement
- People banned from consuming alcohol in public, with fines for violations. In Berlin, serving and selling alcohol between 11pm and 6am is prohibited; the sale of alcohol in open containers is completely prohibited
- “Body-related services” (including hairdressers and massage/beauty salons) are prohibited
- Food may still be sold as takeaway, but must not be consumed on the premises
- Religious events in churches, synagogues and mosques may take place with strict hygiene measures. Communal singing is not allowed
- There is currently no curfew planned in Berlin but this could change if the rate of infection rises
Exceptions for Christmas (December 24 to 26) and New Year’s Eve rules
- Gatherings with up to five adults (plus any number of children under 14) from five different households are allowed, but with the closest family circle only
- People are urged to reduce contacts to a minimum and isolate for the week leading up to these “family reunions”
- Gatherings and demonstrations are not permitted on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day
- No fireworks may be sold (but they are not concretely banned except in some popular public places)
Federal Minister for Finance Olaf Scholz promised financial support for businesses and individuals impacted by the stricter measures. The new bridging aid already decided by the federal government will cover fixed costs. It is planned to last until June 2021 and be increased to a maximum of €500,000 per company per month.
If these measures do not significantly reduce the number of infections, an extension and/or harsher restrictions remain a possibility. On January 5, another meeting will be held to determine the next steps.