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Coronavirus: Germany’s confusing patchwork of restrictions

  • October 12, 2020

Germany’s latest guidelines aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus are affecting everyday life across the county. Even the highest court is being impacted: The Constitutional Court, in the south-western city of Karlsruhe, is due this week to discuss CETA, a controversial trade deal between the EU and Canada. Left Party Bundestag MP Amira Mohamed Ali is one of the plaintiffs and needs to attend. But the government of Baden-Württemberg, where Karlsruhe is located, has imposed an “accommodation ban” on travelers from high-infection areas, like Berlin. So, Ali will have to get up bright and early to make the six-hour journey to Karlsruhe, where the hearing will start later than usual. And in the evening embark on another six-hour journey back to Berlin — unless she decides on a stop-over on the way in the state of Thüringen, which has decided against such a ban. No wonder people are confused!

Impact on tourism

The new magic formula in Germany’s battle against the virus is to measure the number of new cases per 100,000 residents in one area in the course of seven days. If the figure is over 50, then that town or regions become a high-risk area.

Read more: Coronavirus vaccination — What are we actually waiting for?

That list already includes most of Germany’s most populous citiesand much of the densely-populated north-western state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

This, of course, worries people in sparsely-populated regions like Schleswig-Holstein in the north, which live off tourism. They worry that travelers from high-risk regions will bring the virus to rural areas like theirs, where the numbers have so far been low.

Nevertheless, Manuela Schütze of the “Schleswig-Holstein Tourism Agency” told DW: “There is no entry ban in our state. The list of areas worst hit by the seven-day formula is constantly being brought up to date and anybody who comes from those regions has to have a negative corona test from the last 48 hours.” Exceptions are, however, made for people visiting family members and business travelers.

With most of Germany’s federal states now calling on people to take tests before traveling, there have beenlong lines at testing pointsin places like Berlin. Many Germans skipped their traditional summer holidays in southern Europe. Now, more than ever, they hope to enjoy the fall break, even if it only means just a few days off inside Germany’s borders.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Neuschwanstein Castle

    King Ludwig II of Bavaria was shy and sought solitude in Neuschwanstein Castle. After his death in 1886, life entered his refuge when it was opened to visitors. In previous years, 6,000 people a day walked through the castle of the “fairy-tale king” in the Allgäu region during the high season. In times of COVID-19, the daily figure is only 1,080. Ludwig would have approved of the peace and quiet.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Cologne Cathedral

    Only 300 visitors at a time are allowed into the cathedral until further notice. This leads to long queues, especially on weekends. Once inside, the experience is all the more impressive. Visitors have much of one of Germany’s largest cathedrals nearly to themselves. Although tourists must also be prepared for longer waiting times when climbing the tower, it is worth it.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Heidelberg Castle

    This summer it is also quieter than usual on the romantic ruins high above the Neckar River. Instead of 4,000 visitors a day, only half of that amount visit the Emperor’s Hall, the Great Barrel or the castle garden this year. “You can enjoy a more individual experience of the castle,” says Michael Bös, head of the castle administration.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie Plaza

    From the public viewing platform at a height of 37 meters (121 feet), guests can enjoy a sensational view of Hamburg and its harbor. Currently, there are even tickets available for last-minute visitors. Nevertheless, the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall recommends booking tickets in advance online. Due to social distancing rules, not as many people as usual are allowed in at the same time.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    The dome of the Reichstag in Berlin

    Seeing the Brandenburg Gate or the government quarter from the roof terrace of the Reichstag building and looking through the glass roof into the Bundestag plenary chamber is currently only available to registered individuals. The Reichstag dome, designed by architect Norman Foster, will not be accessible to groups until the end of September. There are also no guided tours of the building.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Berlin’s Museum Island

    Access to the State Museums in Berlin is also limited and only possible with reserved time slot tickets, for example for the Panorama of the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum. You can finally enjoy attractions like the bust of Nefertiti in peace and quiet! In 2019, a total of 4.2 million people visited the State Museums in Berlin. Currently, the figure is expected to be 30 percent of that.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Flower Island of Mainau

    With its seasonal flower arrangements, the island is a tourist hotspot. Well, normally. Usually up to 8,000 daily guests populate Mainau Island on Lake Constance. This year the visitors from abroad are missing as well as most bus trip tourists. For those visitors who manage to get here, it is a privilege to enjoy the beautiful garden in peace and quiet.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    The Frauenkirche in Dresden

    The world-famous 18th-century church, which was destroyed at the end of the Second World War and rebuilt true to the original after 1990, is a magnet for visitors. But at the moment, only 50 people are allowed into the dome of the Dresden Frauenkirche at the same time, and only 40 visitors inside the church. At concerts, only about 350 of the approximately 1,660 seats are available.

  • Germany’s most beautiful tourist destinations less crowded than ever

    Rothenburg ob der Tauber

    This small, medieval town in Bavaria with a population of just over 10,000 usually attracts some 1.9 million visitors every year. A large part of them come from Asia and the US. These guests are missing this year, but local visitors finally have the chance to explore their town with its timber-framed houses. As Goethe once wrote: “Why wander off into the distance? Look, good things lie so near!”

    Author: Anne Termèche

So are the politicians going to back down on the “accommodation ban”?

Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller of the social democrats (SPD), told public broadcaster ZDF that he believed that enforcing such a ban between Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, was absurd, given the hundreds and thousands of commuters who regularly travel between the two.

Christian Lindner, leader of the business-friendly opposition free democrats (FDP), said: “This across-the-board clampdown on freedom of movement within Germany is out of all proportion.”

Avoiding a new lockdown at all cost

As coronavirus infection rates are once again on the rise, a raft of new regulations have been implemented,which again vary from state to state.

But all politicians want to ensure that schools and childcare centers remain open this time around.  They especially want to prevent a re-run of the lockdown that badly hit the German industry and business earlier in the year.

Read more:Germany’s car industry struggling amid coronavirus crisis

“We need regulations that allow economic activity to continue to flourish, instead of getting in the way of business,” economist Clemens Fuest, head of the influential German Ifo Institute for Economic Research, stressed on Monday.

That sentiment was echoed by Economics Minister Peter Altmaier of the governing conservative Christian Democrats (CDU): “We have learned a lot in the last six months. “We now know much more about what is dangerous and what is not,” he told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper

Most experts agree that travelers returning from holidays in the summer months were responsible for a significant rise in infections. But now they mainly blame social gatherings without masks or social distancing for the latest rapid increase.

So most states have implemented restrictions on the number of people who can meet in public. Berlin has ordered bars and restaurants to close by 11 o’clock in the evening. Violation of the ban can carry a fine of up to 5000€ ($5900.) Bavaria has introduced a 250€ fine for anybody who refuses to wear a mask as stipulated.

The 16 state premiers are to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday in a fresh attempt to streamline the measures.

Virologist Christian Drosten, who has become a household name in recent months, has warned: “The virus will spread more and more; and we will increasingly find ourselves in a situation where we have to adopt uniform measures.” For the time being though, such a streamlined approach seems a long way off in Germany, where federal structures are hampering a unified approach.

This article was translated from German.

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