Coronavirus in Germany: What You Need to Know

Coronavirus in Germany

Updated July 1, 2020. (new developments in red)

While many German residents continue to keep their distance, life is starting to feel like normal, at least in Berlin. We’ve all gotten used to wearing our masks, washing our hands, and staying 1.5 meters away from others, and it’s paying off. The number of those infected with COVID-19 continue to decrease in Germany.

Below, you’ll find an outline of everything you might need to know during the Covid-19 crisis, including the rules and regulations for Berlin, info on what to do if your visa is expiring, and links to financial aid resources for business owners, self-employed workers and freelancers in Germany. 

I live in Berlin. What rules do I need to be aware of?

The German senate began relaxing some of the rules for social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis in early May. The rules that affect most of us include:

  • Berlin Schools: On June 9, the Berlin senate announced that schools will return to normal after the summer holidays, when the 2020-2021 school year begins on August 10. Most of Berlin’s school children returned to school, on a limited schedule, at the end of May. Classes were divided into groups, with half the class attending two days per week, and the other half attending the other two days for a few hours each day. Students were required to wear protective masks and keep a 1.5 meter distance from each other. Kitas began normal operations on June 15, and all Kita kids were allowed to return to their Kindergartens on June 22. More details here: www.berlin.de/corona/massnahmen/schulen-und-kitas/
  • Social Distancing: Since May 6, members of one household have been permitted to meet with members of one other household. The two households may come together either indoors or outdoors, but are asked to maintain a 1.5 meter distance from each other.
  • Shopping: In addition to essential needs stores (supermarkets, building supply stores, etc.) all other types of stores are now allowed to re-open in Berlin, though masks must be worn, physical distance must be kept and hygiene rules must be in place. Weekly farmer’s markets are up and running. Protective masks are required in all stores as of April 29.
  • Going Out: Public transportation is running, but passengers are asked to keep their distance from others, and wear a mask on all trains and buses (as of April 27). If you’re planning to spend time at your local park, be sure to spread your blanket at least 5 meters away from others. Restaurants have re-opened, offering spacing between tables.
  • Summer vacation: Hotels, inns, B&Bs, and holiday homes in Berlin, Brandenburg, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as well as other parts of Germany, re-opened to tourists on May 25. City tours and boat tours also resumed on this date. Campgrounds have opened, as have charter boat rental outfits. Borders are now open between Germany and its neighboring countries, and there are no more border controls in place. Several countries throughout Europe have opened their borders to outside visitors, and Germany has removed travel warnings for many. Note that Germany still has a warning for travel to Turkey until August 31. This article has detailed information on specific holiday destinations (in German). Travelers are also allowed to enter Germany from the 11 non-EU countries listed in this article
  • Berlin swimming pools and lake beaches have opened! To keep the number of visitors down, tickets must be booked online for a specific time frame. More info at berlinerbaeder.de.
  • Berlin zoos, gardens, galleries and museums have re-opened! Tickets for the Berlin Zoologischer Garten and Berlin Tierpark must be booked in advance online, where visitors can select a specific day and a 4-hour time window for their visit. Click here to book tickets for the Zoologischer Garten, and book tickets for the Tierpark here.
  • Berlin playgrounds re-opened on April 30. Parents are expected to ensure that their children play at an appropriate level of distance from each other and that playgrounds do not get too full.
  • Berlin hair salons re-opened on May 4.
  • Large group events (over 1000 people ) are banned until August 31 (concerts, sporting events, festivals). But groups of up to 100 people are allowed to come together outside, since May 25, and up to 50 people may gather in a closed room according to the Berliner Morgenpost.
  • Always stay at least 1.5 meters or 4 feet away from other people when out and about. 
  • Protective masks are mandatory on public transportation (since April 27) as well as in supermarkets and other stores (since April 29).

See the complete Ordinance on Measures Necessary to Stem the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in Berlin here: https://www.berlin.de/corona/en/measures/directive/

 

Can I still apply for or renew a visa/residence permit in Berlin?

The Berlin Immigration Office (Landesamt für Einwanderung) has significantly reduced its services. The office is only open to those needing to travel for emergency reasons. However, citizens of certain countries may apply for a visa by sending an application via mail or email. Check the FAQ page for details: www.berlin.de

If your visa is expiring in the next 6 weeks, you have options.

You can apply for a visa extension via this form if you meet the following criteria: 

  • Your visa is expired. 
  • Your visa will expire in the next six weeks.
  • You have an appointment at the Berlin Immigration Office. 

Once you’ve submitted the form, be sure to print out the confirmation page. This serves as an extension of your visa if it expires. 

More details can be found on this FAQ page.

And continue to check this page on Berlin.de for any updates as the situation progresses.

 

I am self-employed and losing work because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Am I eligible for state aid?

Germany passed a bill to implement a multi-billion-euro aid package that will help offset the economic hardships that many freelancers and small-businesses anticipate from the Coronavirus crisis. 

Self-employed people affected by the Coronavirus crisis can apply for 6-weeks of full compensation. According to SPIEGEL, freelancers will be eligible for up to €15,000 over a three month period.

The Finanzamt is also doing its part to provide freelancers with some relief by pushing back tax-prepayment due dates, deferring tax payments currently due, and waiving surcharges for late payments. 

Also, any freelancers who have paid into unemployment insurance are eligible to apply for unemployment compensation during the Coronavirus crisis.

Projektwerk has a good article about how self-employed workers can get financial state aid here: www.projektwerk.com

Additionally, Germany’s emergency aid package offers self-employed entrepreneurs and small businesses with up to 5 employees the chance to apply for grants of up to €9,000. Businesses with up to 10 employees are eligible to apply for up to €15,000 in emergency aid. Check the Investitionsbank Berlin website for updates on how to apply: www.ibb.de

 

What are my options for German state aid as a business owner? 

Thanks to a Germany’s emergency aid initiative, small and medium-sized businesses may apply for an interest-free loan of up to €500,000. Companies must have been founded over three years ago. Go here to apply: www.ibb.de

Also, IHK Berlin — Berlin’s Chamber of Commerce, has set up an information hotline where member companies can get advice on managing their business during the pandemic. The hotline number is 030 31510 919, and more information can be found here: www.ihk-berlin.de

 

I’m an employee of a company or institution. Can I still get paid if I can’t work?

If you are employed, but unable to work due to a ban on your work activities or quarantine, you are eligible for compensation under the Infection Protection Act for Bans on Activities and Quarantine (Infektionsschutzgesetz bei Tätigkeitsverboten und Quarantäne). 

Your employer is responsible for paying you up to 6 weeks salary. They will then be reimbursed by the Senate Department for Finance (Senatsverwaltung für Finanzen). 

More info and application downloads here: www.berlin.de

 

Can I travel to Germany? 

Germany has implemented several travel restrictions, but German citizens and foreigners with a valid residence permit will be allowed entrance. At the time of this update (April 29, 2020), borders remain closed between Germany and Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, and Denmark at least until May 4. Commuters needing to cross the border for work reasons will be allowed to do so. Anyone entering Germany from abroad is required to self-quarantine for 14-days.

For more information, go to the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.

 

Where can I get real facts about Coronavirus? 

With so much information out there, it can be difficult to know the truth about Coronavirus and the current situation in Germany as well as the rest of the world. We recommend referencing the websites of the World Health Organization, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Robert Koch Institute to get the facts about Covid-19. 

The city of Berlin also has a good FAQ page on their website: www.berlin.de/corona/faq

If you are in Berlin and suffering from Covid-19 symptoms or suspect you might be infected with the disease call the hotline: 030 90 28 28 28

 

** The information in this article is based on our research from the sources cited above.  As a relocation agency,  Archer Relocation does not provide legal advice, but we strive to provide information that may be helpful to our clients living in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany.

 

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Archer Relocation has been providing relocation services to families, individuals and companies in Berlin since early 2015.  Managing Director, Emily Archer, founded the company desiring to use her first-hand experience as an expat to make the relocation process as smooth as possible for others moving to Berlin.  Read other useful information about moving to and living in Berlin, such as ‘How to Find a Berlin Apartment’, on our Berlin Blog.  

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