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What are Germany's new coronavirus social distancing rules?

March 22, 2020

Germany has implemented drastic restrictions on public and social life, as the country tackles the coronavirus pandemic. But it appears some states think they have better plans in place.

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a media statement on social distancing measures
Image: Reuters/M. Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Sunday a nine-point plan to be implemented nationwide in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

The measures were announced following a telephone meeting with the head of Germany's 16 states.

Infections from COVID-19 in Germany rose to 23,974 on Sunday, with 92 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

What are the new measures?

  • Public gatherings of more than two people will be banned. There will be exceptions for families and those living together.
  • General contact with others should be reduced to a minimum.
  • A 1.5-meter (4.9 feet) distance should be kept at all times when in public.
  • Gastronomy businesses must close. Businesses offering food delivery and collection will be allowed to remain open.
  • Service providers such as hair-dressers, cosmetic, massage and tattoo studios where a 2-meter distance between people is not possible must also close. Businesses and centers offering medical treatments may remain open.
  • Police and other law enforcement agencies will enforce any infractions of the new rules — Merkel did not state what the punishment would be for anyone not abiding by the new measures.
  • Hygiene regulations must be implemented for staff in the workplace, or for visitors.
  • Commuting to work, helping others and exercising alone outside will still be permissible, as long as the activities are carried out in abidance with the guidelines.
  • The measures will remain in place, initially for the next two weeks.

Read more: Where did coronavirus come from? How long does it last on surfaces? Your questions answered

'Show sense and heart'

The stricter measures follow an appeal made by Merkel last week asking people in Germany to stick to guidelines. 

"This is my urgent appeal to the few who have struggled to follow the rules. Please let's all pull together to do what's right for our country. Show sense and heart," she said during Sunday's announcement.

How will the new rules be implemented?

Germany operates as a federal system, with Merkel herself calling the measures "guidelines."

Bavaria already implemented a state-wide lockdown before Merkel announced Sunday's measures. According to DPA news agency, the state will not carry out the state guidelines, banning meetings of more than two people. 

Rhineland-Palatinate plans to enact a far-reaching ban on contact. It is not known for how many people.

In Saxony, from Monday onwards, there will be movement restrictions in place. Leaving the house will only be permitted in certain circumstances.

North Rhine-Westphalia announced it would be implementing the two-person ban, as advised by Merkel on Sunday. Laschet said there will be fines of up to €25,000 ($27,000) for those breaking the rules, and not keeping the advised 2-meter distance between people.