March 4, 2021
Current lockdown rules in Germany have been extended through March 28. This decision came yesterday, after federal and state leaders met to discuss COVID mitigation rules.
However, there does appear to be at least some light at the end of the tunnel. A five-step plan to ease restrictions was also presented yesterday. In places where COVID incidence rates are low enough, it could mean an opening of stores, zoos, museums and sporting activities by as soon as March 8.
Why was lockdown extended?
According to German authorities, the current mitigation measures have been working well, and have led to a significant decrease in new infections. In some places, like the Kaiserslautern area, the rate of new infections is currently below the target 7-day incidence rate of 50 cases per 100,000.
But the country is not out of the woods yet. Local situations vary greatly, and new variants of the virus present variables that are still unknown. And while more than 6 million doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in Germany, the number of people who have received two jabs represents less than 3% of the country’s population. So caution is still needed.
Five steps to easing restrictions
Step 1: schools, day care, hairdressers (March 1)
This one happened on Monday, and was crucial for those who have children. Schools, day care facilities and hairdressers were able to open their doors again.
Step 2: bookstores, flower shops, some services (March 8)
Step two is scheduled to activate on March 8. Here, bookstores, flower shops and garden centers can reopen. There will be strict entrance requirements based on a certain number of customers per square meters of space. Some services, such as massage therapists or driving schools, will also be allowed to open.
Step 3: retail stores, museums, zoos, outdoor sports and more (March 8)
Step three is also scheduled for March 8, and applies to retail, leisure and sports activities. However, what can open depends greatly on incidence rates.
With a stable infection rate of less than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants:
- Retail stores, museums, zoos, art galleries, botanical gardens and memorials can open.
- Non-contact outdoor sports can be played, with a maximum of ten people.
With a stable or falling infection rate of less than 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, stores and cultural organizations can open on an appointment-only basis. In this case, outdoor sports activities for children up to 14 years or age, in groups of less than 20, are also authorized.
Step 4: outdoor dining, entertainment venues, limited sports (March 22, at the earliest)
Step four is dependent on the success of step three, which means that it can begin on March 22, if all goes well.
This step is also tied to seven-day incidence rates. With a stable infection rate of less than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, the following can open: cinemas, concert houses, theaters and outdoor eateries.
Additionally, outdoor contact sports and indoor non-contact sports will be authorized.
If rates are between 51 and 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, these places can still remain open. However, appointments will be required for eating outside, and negative quick tests will be required for those wishing to play sports or visit entertainment venues.
Step 4: leisure events, sports (April 5, at the earliest)
Step five is dependent on the success of Steps 3 and 4. If all goes well, leisure events with up to 50 participants and all outdoor sports will get the green light. If incidence rates are lower – between 35 and 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, then it has positive implications for loosening restrictions in retail stores and sports.
It is important to note that steps 3-5 come with an “emergency brake.” If the 7-day incidence rate in a region rises to more than 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for more than 3 days in a row, current lockdown rules will be put back into place.
Representatives from the federal and state governments are slated to meet again on March 24. At that time, they will assess the effectiveness of the current plan. Discussions about restaurants, travel, and cultural evens will also be on the agenda.
Make sure you check local requirements.
Even though the lockdown extension applies country-wide, there can be significant variations depending on which German state you live in.