November 2020: 8 changes affecting expats in Germany
The long-anticipated BER Airport will finally open as October becomes November, just as a wave of new restrictions push Germany back into a limited lockdown. And that’s not all that’s changing this month. Here are eight changes expats in Germany should know about.
1. New coronavirus restrictions
In an attempt to bring the coronavirus pandemic back under control, the German government and federal states have agreed to implement a second, limited lockdown. The new restrictions come into force on November 2 and will remain in place until at least the end of the month. The new measures include:
- Only two households allowed to meet in public (up to a maximum of 10 people)
- Closure of restaurants, pubs, clubs and bars, except for takeaway sales
- Closure of leisure and cultural facilities including museums, theatres, opera houses, cinemas, amusement parks, swimming pools, sports clubs, gyms and brothels
- Closure of cosmetic studios, massage parlours, tattoo studios (not hairdressers)
- Only “necessary and expressly non-touristic” overnight stays permitted
- Working from home to continue wherever possible
2. New quarantine ordinance for travellers from foreign risk areas
As of November 8, Germany is also expected to implement new quarantine rules for travellers returning from foreign countries or regions classified as risk areas by the Robert Koch Institute. The federal government has provided a sample quarantine ordinance that serves as a “joint working aid”.
Among other things, it reduces the total quarantine duration to 10 days and stipulates that it can only be ended with a negative coronavirus test on the fifth day after entry - but the exact regulations are likely to differ from state to state. Travellers should therefore contact the relevant authority in their destination state to find out the exact rules.
3. BER Airport begins operations
After nine years of delays and six missed opening dates, Berlin Brandenburg Airport “Willy Brandt” - or BER for short - will finally be opened on October 31 - although the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and general embarrassment over the whole debacle have combined to ensure that celebrations will be virtually non-existent. The first Lufthansa and Easyjet planes are due to touch down at the new airport on October 31, and the old Tegel Airport will officially close on November 8.
4. Nutri-score on food introduced
From the beginning of November onwards, consumers will be able to more easily find out about the nutritional value of their food. The nutritional traffic light system, dubbed “Nutri-Score”, will finally make its way onto the packaging of foodstuffs in Germany, enabling consumers to see at a glance whether a product contributes to a healthy diet or not. The five-level, colour-letter combination scoring system ranges from a green A to a red E and takes sugar, salt and fat into account, as well as recommended ingredients such as fibre.
However, it has been left up to manufacturers to decide whether they will print the Nutri-Score on the front of their products. Foodwatch has branded this decision “insufficient”, since manufacturers of unhealthy products are very likely to simply not use the labelling.
5. Deadline for changing vehicle insurance
If you want to change your car insurance, you should mark November 30 in your calendar, the annual deadline for switching between providers. Most car insurance contracts in Germany run for a calendar year and contain a one-month termination clause.
This means that your provider must receive your termination notice by November 30 if you want to switch to a new (potentially cheaper) insurer on January 1, 2021. If you miss the deadline, you could be forced into remaining with your current provider for another year.
6. Changes to prescriptions
In the past, pharmacists in Germany were the ones who normally specified the dosage of prescriptions and gave other practical advice on medications. From November 1, 2020 onwards, however, only doctors will be able to specify dosages. This means that your doctor will be obliged to write a dosage on your prescription before you fill it at the pharmacy.
The reason for the change is the increased number of people who are ordering prescription medications online.
7. New building energy law comes into force
A further component of the German government’s climate package will come into force on November 1. The so-called Building Energy Act aims to reduce the energy consumption of buildings through more efficient systems and structural thermal insulation.
The law stipulates that owners of existing buildings must comply with certain retrofitting and replacement obligations. In addition, the law contains regulations on which shares of renewable energies must be used for heating or cooling in a new building.
8. Identity card for EU citizens
From November 2, passport and administrative authorities in Germany (such as citizens’ offices) will also be able to issue eID cars for EU citizens. These new cards do not replace identity cards; instead, they allow EU citizens to safely prove their identity on the internet, for instance when taking out a loan.
To have an eID card issued, EU citizens will need to present their registration certificate and a travel document such as a passport or ID card to their local issuing authority. The application costs around 30 euros.