October 20, 2020
Recent weeks have brought a flood of information about new or strengthened COVID-19 restrictions. For good reason, too: the number of infections is rising quickly in Germany and around the world. In response, German leaders are moving to mitigate the negative health effects while trying to avoid the negative economic effects of a second lockdown.
For ordinary German citizens, there are frequent complaints of confusion: where should one turn for the clearest advice on what to do?
For U.S. personnel in Germany, things can seem even more complicated, given the presence of military command guidance in addition to state and Federal policies.
In truth, the current COVID crisis is historically complicated. But for U.S.-affiliated personnel living in Germany, there are basic principles to consider that can help reduce some of the confusion. Here’s where to start.
USG Employees: Three Pillars of Guidance
There are rules that everyone must follow in the battle to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (see below). But, depending on where you live in Germany, there can also be a number of regulatory differences.
With that in mind, here’s a quick 1-2-3 method for understanding which guidance is most relevant for U.S.-affiliated personnel in Germany.
1. Always check first: local U.S. command guidance
Though overseas military commands are bound by host nation rules, they also have the authority to go above and beyond those rules to establish stricter regulations. Simply put, if you have questions about COVID-related rules – including ones related to travel, gatherings, or more – always check first with your local command.
Remember, too, that circumstances are often different depending on the region of Germany in which you live. Fortunately, all commands offer content-rich, frequently updated COVID pages that offer guidance and contact information. More information is available from Ramstein Air Base, USAG Bavaria, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz, USAG Stuttgart, and USAG Wiesbaden.
2. Next: German state regulations
Federal and state leaders in Germany work diligently to coordinate policy responses. However, conditions can vary widely from state to state. So, too, do local regulations.
Consequently, rules that apply for Bavaria, for example, may be quite different than those in Hessen or Rheinland-Pfalz. If you have questions, check the COVID websites in the states for which you live. For U.S. service members, the states of Baden-Würtemburg, Bavaria, Hessen and Rheinland-Pfalz are particularly applicable.
3. Finally: Federal Germany
The German federal government serves as a leader and coordinator in trying to mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19. They offer frequently updated policy information: this can be accessed either in English, or easily translated using a tool like Google Translate.
The Robert Koch Institute, which is Germany’s center for disease control and research, publishes advice, analysis, risk zone warnings and updates.
A Few Constants in a Sea of Change
Restrictions continue to tighten when it comes to gatherings, public spaces. and public events. There are, however, a few constants that can be practiced at all times and which pay big dividends in terms of public health.
- Wear a mask: wear masks in all public and heavily trafficked spaces.
- Maintain distance: maintain at least six feet of distance.
- Reduce gatherings: limit gatherings and trips to places where you are likely to find lots of others.