On April 15, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a decision to start removing coronavirus lockdown measures in the coming weeks.
Germany will reopen many of its shops on April 20 and some of its schools from May 4 in all 16 federal states of the country. Under the decision, Merkel said, stores up to 800 square metres will be allowed to reopen once they have “plans to maintain hygiene”.
Heads of some regions, as well as the leaders of large enterprises, who pointed out the negative economic consequences of the lockdown, insisted on the quarantine curtailment. However, the Ministry of Health opposed. Therefore, it was decided to easy restrictions mainly for small and medium-sized businesses.
The Chancellor said Germany had achieved “interim success” in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak and preventing its health system from being overwhelmed. Strict curbs on social contact will remain in place and Germans will be encouraged to wear masks in shops and on public transport.
A ban on large public events will be upheld until August 31 to prevent possible mass transmissions of the virus, which causes a highly infectious respiratory disease called COVID-19.
Merkel noted that a full return to the normal life will be expected in a few weeks or months. Restaurants, bars, cinemas, hotels and fitness clubs will continue to be closed, and church services will be banned.
A closer look at the administrative measures and limitations introduced by Germany earlier:
The main intent of the federal government is contained in Angela Merkel’s address from March 18, 2020, the Russian language text being available at https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/coronavirus/statement-chancellor-1732354
Socio-political emphasis was placed on full transparency, or public openness and consistency of federal and land governments. The democratic core of the German political system is emphasized several times. Accordingly, this key address to the society is not about harsh measures of compulsion but rather the appeal to civic consciousness of citizens and socially responsible behavior.
A separate and particular emphasis was made on the necessity to observe social separation of 1.5m.
Moreover, while in mid-March 2020 the responsibility to establish specific restrictions was given to lands, already on March 22 federal government began to standardize measures, and rhetoric changed as well. (https://www.bundesregierung.de/resource/blob/992798/1733226/d1abd72b7073991584d48db842f4b0f3/2020-03-22-streaming-merkel-bundeslaender-gebaerdensprache-ausschriftung-data.pdf?download=1).
1. Thus on March 22 the following list of recommended and mandatory measures was introduced for all of Germany:
1.1. All citizens are to reduce to absolute minimum contact with people outside the household.
1.2. Public places are to observe social distancing of at least 1.5 and ideally 2m, except for individuals mentioned above.
1.3. Public places may be visited only 1.3.1 singly, 1.3.2, with one individual not from the same household, or 1.3.3. with individuals living in the same household.
1.4. It remains permissible to go to work, take care of the needy, shop, visit doctors, participate in necessary meetings and exams, and engage in individual sports activity and movement outdoors, and participate in other necessary activities.
1.5. Given the seriousness of the situation in our country, it is unacceptable for people to assemble in public places and apartments and other private places in order to spend time together.
1.6. Public feeding establishments are closed. Exception is made for delivery and take-out.
1.7. Service sector and personal hygiene enterprises such as barber shops, cosmetologists, massage salons, tattoo parlors, and others, are closed.
1.8. All businesses, especially those where visitors are present, hygiene and prevention measures must be preserved to protect both workers and visitors.
1.9. These measures will be in force for no less than two weeks.
The process of unifying and expanding the restrictions did not place limits onL
–individual movement of citizens.
–individual physical activity outdoors.
–There is no ban on in-person business activity, except for those mentioned in 1.6-1.7. For example, Bavaria, one of the most affected regions, continues to operate its metal industry. Even a worker’s COVID-19 illness is not considered to be a reason to shut down the entire firm.
2. The March 27 packet of measures included a change in the Working Hours Law. In particular, it included exceptions for physicians, medical personnel, service personnel of hospitals, and social workers.
That packet also modified and simplified some aspects of civil, tender, and criminal process law. (https://www.bmjv.de/SharedDocs/Gesetzgebungsverfahren/Dokumente/Bgbl_Corona-Pandemie.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=1).
These changes include:
2.1. Delaying a criminal process and criminal procedures due to the danger of pandemic beyond the period specified by current law. The norm entered into force on March 28. This allows judges to suspend court proceedings for no longer than 3 months and 10 days if it cannot continue due to SARS-CoV-2 prevention measures. At the moment, the key procedural activities cannot be interrupted for more than 3 weeks, and, if they’ve continued for more than 10 days, for more than a month.
2.2. suspending the obligation to issue a bankruptcy annuncement until September 30, if the bankruptcy was not caused by Coronavirus.
2.3. Business entities which were obligated to announce bankruptcy are now allowed to continue further activity, including:
–continue ordinary payments, including those which support or renew business operations or reorganization. Payments are considered legitimate and in good faith.
–paying off new loans that were provided during the suspended bankruptcy procedure is not considered discriminatory toward creditors if done by September 30, 2023.
–credits and collateral should not be considered a reason to delay bankruptcy procedure during the period of suspension of bankruptcy proceedings.
–other processes ensuring the protection of the business entity during the suspension of the obligation to declare bankruptcy.
2.4. Innovations in the realm of civil law concerning relations among corporate founders, stockholders, and directors, as well as changes in the rules governing legally binding decisions of corporate actors. Thus companies now have the ability to hold, for the first time, virtual meetings without physical presence of stockholders, participants, or directors, and adopt legally binding decisions.
These innovations have the potential to radically change both business and social life.
3. In addition, FRG Ministry of Justice is placing emphasis on family law, children’s rights, and parent-child relations when the family is running a business. It emphasizes the immutability of German family law basics under conditions of restrictions: corona virus does not change the fact that the underaged are dependent on parents to develop own personalities. Therefore regular contact between the child and every parent is, as a rule, in the child’s best interest. The child thus has the right to maintain contact with each parent.
On April 3, it was announced that the restrictions listed above would be extended. There were no additional restrictions.
It should be noted that the federal government decided to ease the lockdown restrictions not only under the pressure from regional authorities and the business community. German medics studied the COVID-19 issue in details and the Germany leadership demonstrated that it was able to remain in touch with the reality despite the global media hysteria. The federal government closely works with the scientific and medical communities receiving from them regular scientific, sociological, pandemic and other consultations and reports.
For example, an interesting insight into the COVID-19 outbreak was provided by University of Bonn. Spectaror reprots (source):
“A team at the University of Bonn has tested a randomized sample of 1,000 residents of the town of Gangelt in the north-west of the country, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in Germany. The study found that two percent of the population currently had the virus and that 14 percent were carrying antibodies suggesting that they had already been infected — whether or not they experienced any symptoms. Eliminating an overlap between the two groups, the team concluded that 15 percent of the town have been infected with the virus.
This number matters hugely because it tells us what we need to know in order to judge how deadly the virus is and also how easily it spreads. It tells us, ultimately, how useful the methods are that we are employing in order to combat the virus. As explained here before, the question of how many people already have the infection is at the heart of a debate between epidemiologists at the Imperial College and Oxford university.
The 15 percent figure from Gangelt is interesting because it matches two previous studies. Firstly, there was the accidental experiment of the cruise ship the Diamond Princess, which inadvertently became a floating laboratory when a passenger showing symptoms of COVID-19 boarded on January 20 and remained in the ship, spreading the virus, for five days. The ship was eventually quarantined on February 3 and all its 3,711 passengers tested for the virus. It turned out the 634 of them — 17 percent — had been infected, many of them without symptoms. The mortality rate on the vessel was 1.2 percent — although, inevitably being a cruise ship, it was a relatively elderly cohort.”
The figure of 15% for people carrying antibodies is especially important amid the fact that antibodies for COVID-19 reportedly appear only after a relatively notable period of time. Therefore, the people carrying the antibodies may have passed through COVID-19 much earlier.
The German decision to ease the lockdown rules is also linked with the general care about the health of the nation. The immune response to COVID-19 differs for various people from the first hours of infection. It depends on hereditary factors, environmental factors (for example, the polluted city air) and habits (for example, smoking or sports). These factors affect the state of immunity of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. People that live a healthy lifestyle quickly produces interferons – the first signals for the body about the need for antiviral protection. The very same people have more chances to pass through COVID-19 in a light form.
The same reason was behind the decision of the federal government to allow people to engage in sports activities and motivate them to act in this direction even despite the current lockdown.