Germany's tougher restrictions come into force: The rules in your state

Germany's tougher restrictions come into force: The rules in your state

Germany's tougher restrictions come into force: The rules in your state

Tougher lockdown restrictions are now in place across Germany - but not all federal states have implemented the rules in the same way. Here’s an overview of what’s happening in your state. 

New coronavirus restrictions come into force in Germany

The new rules have been in effect in Hamburg since Friday, in Brandenburg since Saturday, and in Berlin, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Thuringia since Sunday. The remaining 10 states introduced the tougher lockdown restrictions on Monday. 

Many of the restrictions currently in place were introduced on December 16 in an attempt to curb the country’s second wave of COVID-19. They were originally due to expire in mid-January. However, with the new rules having a negligible effect on infection rates and deaths, the federal and state governments opted last week to extend the restrictions until at least the end of January - and in some places to tighten them. 

Shops and non-essential businesses will therefore remain closed across the country, employers have been asked to allow employees to work from home if possible, and a ban on the consumption of alcohol in public remains in place. 

As well as extending these existing restrictions, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers also agreed upon a new set of measures, forcing the continued closure of schools and childcare centres, tightening contract restrictions and imposing movement restrictions in coronavirus hotspots. In principle, all of these rules should apply nationwide. 

But once again a number of federal states are charting their own course when it comes to the implementation of these rules - some going for laxer regulations, and others for stricter ones. Here’s an overview of some of the major exceptions. 


Like a number of other states, Baden-Württemberg has chosen to make some exceptions to the contact restrictions. Accordingly, children are not included in the rule that each household may only meet with one person from a separate household. An exception is also made for families who are helping each other out with childcare: two families can share care between them. However, it has to be the same two families for the duration of the lockdown. 

Primary schools and daycare centres may reopen in the state from January 18 - but only if case numbers decrease “significantly”. A decision is expected this Thursday. The 15-kilometre movement restriction rule has not been implemented in Baden-Württemberg. 


From Monday, January 11, stricter measures apply in Bavaria. However, the contact restrictions do not apply to children under the age of 14 who are regularly looked after by another (designated) family during lockdown. With this exception, the government wants to support families and neighbours who share childcare responsibilities. Schools and daycare centres remain closed except for emergency care. There will be no face-to-face teaching until January 31. 

People living in coronavirus hotspots where the seven-day incidence rate has risen above 200 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants also have their freedom of movement restricted. They are not allowed to travel further than 15 kilometres away from the boundaries of their municipality. Tourist day trips are expressly prohibited. 

As of Monday, goods that have been ordered in advance can be picked up from retail stores (Click & Collect), as long as strict hygiene concepts are adhered to. 


Stricter lockdown rules have been in place in Germany’s capital since Sunday. Here, too, a few exceptions will apply. For instance, children up to the age of 12 with single parents are exempt from the contact restrictions. 

Schools and childcare facilities remain closed for face-to-face classes until January 25. Emergency care is available for primary school and daycare children, but parents are encouraged to only use this when absolutely necessary. From Monday, lessons in small groups should be possible for the graduating classes (grades 10, 12 and 13). 

From now until January 31, you need a valid reason to leave your home, which could include visits to the doctor, shopping, school, work, sports, walking the dog or gardening. 


The new Corona Protection Ordinance has been in force in Brandenburg since Saturday. While stricter contact restrictions are now in place, an exception has been made for children up to the age of 14. 

Schools - with the exception of graduating classes and special needs schools - remain closed. Depending on the infection situation, primary school students may be able to return to classes on January 18, under a rotational system. Daycare centres remain open, but parents are encouraged to look after their children at home if at all possible. From Monday, January 18, single parents will be entitled to emergency care. 

Daycare facilities are not open in districts with a seven-day incidence rate above 300 new infections per 100.000. The 15-kilometres rule applies in coronavirus hotspots in Brandenburg. 


Bremen, too, makes an exception to the contact restrictions - this time for children up to the age of 12. Movement restrictions have also been interpreted more loosely, because the 15-kilometre rule will be waived for the time being. 

Compulsory school attendance will be suspended until the end of January; parents can decide for themselves whether to send their children to school. Graduating classes will operate face-to-face teaching on a rotating schedule. 


The city of Hamburg was one of the first states to implement the new rules, which came into effect on Friday. Members of one household are now only allowed to meet up with one person from another household. No exceptions will be made for children. 

Daycare centres will remain open in Hamburg, but regular operations will be restricted, and opening times will be limited from 8 am to 3 pm. Parents are encouraged to not send their children to daycare. Compulsory school attendance has also been lifted until January 31 - except for exams. Parents can choose whether their children should study at school or at home, but schools will continue to provide childcare between 8 am and 4 pm. 

It’s unclear whether Hamburg will also implement the 15-kilometre rule. But since the seven-day incidence in the state is currently well below the limit of 200, it’s unlikely to make a huge amount of difference. 


Stricter contact restrictions apply as of Monday in Hesse, although exceptions will be made for childcare, with up to three families allowed to come together to share childcare responsibilities. Schools will remain open, but there is no compulsory attendance for grades 1 to 6. From the 7th grade onwards children will learn at home. Childcare is only open for emergency care.

9 pm to 5 am curfews will apply in coronavirus hotspots where the seven-day incidence rate has exceeded 200 per 100.000 on three days in a row. The 15-kilometre rule will also apply, with the person’s home address used as the starting point. 

Lower Saxony

New restrictions have been in place since Sunday in Lower Saxony. The 15-kilometre rule in hotspots has been left up to the municipalities themselves to decide. 

Lower Saxony has also decided to make an exception to the contact restrictions for people with disabilities and children whose parents are separated. The rules have also been relaxed for small children, so that children up to the age of three can accompany their caregiver, without counting as an additional person. 

Quarantine rules are, on the other hand, much stricter in Lower Saxony. Even those who can prove that they have been vaccinated against coronavirus, or that they have already been infected with the virus, must still go into quarantine when entering the state.

Primary schools will operate distance learning in the first week after the school holidays, followed by alternating in-person and at-home lessons until the end of term. For secondary schools, non-graduating classes will switch completely to distance learning. In the exam-grades, lessons will be given in smaller groups. Daycare facilities can open to provide emergency care, at up to 50 percent capacity. 


Mecklenburg-Vorpommern makes one exception to the contact restrictions: if necessary for childcare, children up to the age of 12 are exempt. The 15-kilometre rule now applies to hotspots, with the person’s home address considered the starting point. A curfew also applies between 9 pm and 6 am in high-incidence areas - currently only Mecklenburgische Seenplatte, although Ludwigslust-Parchim is not far behind. 

Graduating classes can return to school, but they are not obliged to. All other grades should study at home, and exams will not be taken until the start of the winter holidays in February. Parents who cannot look after their children at home can take them to daycare. 

North Rhine-Westphalia

In North Rhine-Westphalia, the strict contact rules only relate to public spaces and not to private spaces. The state government has determined that a ban would be uncontrollable in practice - but they recommend that the rules are adhered to in private. Everyone is encouraged to limit their social contacts as much as possible. Parties and similar celebrations are banned. 

The 15-kilometre rule is not included in the new Corona Protection Ordinance. That means it will not automatically take effect in coronavirus hotspots, but it can be invoked as a special measure by areas where the incidence rate rises above 200 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants in seven days. Nonetheless, not a single one of the 53 independent cities and districts in North Rhine-Westphalia has announced their intention to use this rule. 

School pupils are to be taught entirely at home - but the state’s 10.000+ daycare centres are to offer limited care. If possible, parents should keep their children at home. 


In Rhineland-Palatinate, the contact restrictions do not apply to children up to and including the age of six. The household plus one rule is strongly recommended for private gatherings. In this state, too, the 15-kilometre rule will not automatically apply to hotspots, but may be implemented in regions with particularly high infection rates. 

Municipalities have been given the power to issue even stricter rules. This has already happened in Ludwigshafen, Speyer and Pirmasens, where residents may only leave their houses for urgent reasons. 

Compulsory attendance has been suspended in Rhineland-Palatinate’s schools until the end of January. On January 25, primary schools and the 5th and 6th grades should be able to return to lessons on a rotating basis. However, this depends on the infection rate. Daycare centres remain open, but parents are urged to keep children at home wherever possible. 


In Saarland, the 15-kilometre rule is actually being eased. Only touristic day trips are now expressly prohibited, so it is now possible, for instance, to visit a relative who lives more than 15 kilometres away. Exceptions to the contact restrictions are being made for people with disabilities, those in need of care, and children up to the age of 14. 

School students should continue to stay home in Saarland, with the only exception being the graduating years (grade 12 Gymnasium students and grade 13 Gemeinschaftsschule students). Pupils in grades 9 and 10 at Hauptschule should be able to return on January 18. 


Saxony is the only state to have extended the lockdown by an additional week, until February 7. Private contacts will be restricted to just one household plus one person from a separate household - but exceptions will apply to families or neighbours who support each other with childcare. That means that children up to the age of 14 can meet from a maximum of two households. 

The 15-kilometre rule has applied in Saxony since mid-December and will continue to apply. Schools and daycare centres will only offer emergency care, but the plan is for them to reopen on February 8. The first winter school holiday will take place as planned in the first week of February; the second one has been moved to the first week of April


Saxony-Anhalt will apply the 15-kilometre movement restriction in districts where the seven-day incidence rate exceeds 200 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants for five days in a row. The 15-kilometres distance will be measured from the boundary of the city or municipality. 

Exceptions will be made for “good reasons” such as visits to the doctor, caring for relatives, or going to work. The state government has indicated that this rule might soon be applied across the whole of Saxony-Anhalt, if the state-wide incidence rate remains above 200. It hit 202,5 on Friday. 

Schools and daycare centres in the state are back in emergency mode for the first time since April. That means that only parents with a certificate from their employer, specifying that they are a key worker, can have their children looked after in facilities up to and including the sixth grade. Almost all students should continue to learn from home; only graduating classes will have face-to-face lessons. 


Schools and childcare facilities remain largely closed in Schleswig-Holstein, with only emergency care being offered. There are special rules in place for graduating classes. Exceptions will be made to the rules governing social contacts in two areas: the care of children up to the age of 14 by family members and the care of relatives are not included. 

The 15-kilometre rule will not automatically apply in Schleswig-Holstein, but it will be added to a catalogue of measures that municipalities can invoke when the incidence rate rises above 200 per 100.000. 

In future, all visitors to care homes will have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken no more than 24 hours before their visit. 


In Thuringia, the new rules have been in force since Sunday. Everyone is recommended to travel no further than 15 kilometres away from their place of residence, but the only place that this is a strict order is the district of Hildburghausen. 

The winter school holidays have been brought forward to the last week of January; restricted operation is due to resume on February 1 with a tiered concept that allows schools to switch between classrooms and home lessons. Exams scheduled for January will take place. 

Retail and hardware stores are not allowed to offer Click & Collect services. 

Health Minister appeals for patience

The new measures come as Germany logged another 12.497 coronavirus cases on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute. A further 343 deaths were reported. Last Friday, 1.188 deaths were confirmed in Germany - the highest daily tally recorded so far in the pandemic. 

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has appealed for the public’s patience and compliance: “I know that these are once again particular difficulties, hardships for many,” Spahn said to ZDF. “Also social hardships, but at the moment that is the area in which the virus is spreading above all others.” 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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