Tougher measures on the way as Bundestag approves COVID law amendment

Tougher measures on the way as Bundestag approves COVID law amendment

After several hours of debate, the German Bundestag has approved an amendment to the Infection Protection Act. The controversial change gives Angela Merkel’s government the power to impose tougher measures in places with high infection rates. 

German parliament approves amendment to Infection Protection Act

German parliament approved controversial new legislation on Wednesday designed to control the coronavirus pandemic with uniform measures nationwide. With some exceptions, the measures contained within the new law - dubbed the “federal emergency brake” by German media - are largely the same that were agreed upon between Angela Merkel and the leaders of the federal states at a previous coronavirus summit. 

However, up until now, the actual implementation of coronavirus restrictions has been left up to the individual federal states, and in many cases regional leaders have failed to put in place the agreed to lockdown measures - adopting a broad interpretation of the rules, or even watering them down, leading to huge disparities across state borders as to what rules were in place. 

Responding to what they perceived as a confusing patchwork of rules, Angle Merkel’s government therefore introduced legislation to legally obligate - rather than simply coax - states with rising infection rates to act. 

The federal emergency brake will be applied if the number of new reported cases of COVID-19 per 100.000 inhabitants within seven days (the seven-day incidence rate) exceeds 100 on three consecutive days in a district or city. A higher threshold of 165 new cases per 100.000 will apply for any new restrictions in schools. 

What are the new rules?

In a nutshell, the emergency brake provides for the following in regions with high number of infections: 


Residents are required to stay at home between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am - with just a few exceptions. Leaving one’s home is allowed in case of emergencies, work, going to the doctor, nursing and care, animal care, or other “significant reasons." Exceptions will also be made for people walking or jogging alone until midnight. 

Contact restrictions

Households are only permitted to meet up with one other person from a different household. However, no more than five people in total are allowed to meet privately, not including children under the age of 14. Exceptions will apply to meetings of spouses and partners or the exercise of custody and access rights.

Up to 30 people should be allowed to attend funeral services. 


Groceries stores, pharmacies and drugstores, book shops and flower shops will remain unaffected. Other shops like bike and repair shops, banks and post offices may also remain open. 

Otherwise, nonessential shops will only be allowed to admit customers who have a negative coronavirus test and an appointment. If the incidence rate exceeds 150 per 100.000 on three consecutive days, customers can only pick up pre-ordered goods (Click & Collect). They won't need a negative test for this.


Students and teachers must be tested twice a week to participate in face-to-face classes. From an incidence rate of 100, alternating lessons at home and at school are mandatory. If the seven-day incidence rate rises above 165 on three consecutive days, face-to-face teaching in primary and secondary schools will be suspended within two days. Exceptions will be made for final-year classes and special needs schools. 


Sports may only be practised alone, in pairs, or with the members of your household. For children, groups of no more than five people are allowed.

Leisure and culture

Amusement parks, indoor playgrounds, swimming pools, discos, clubs, arcades, casinos, theatres, opera houses, concert halls, cinemas, museums, exhibitions, monuments and memorials must remain closed. Zoos and botanical gardens may open outside areas, as long as visitors present a negative coronavirus test. 


Employers must allow their employees to work from home. Those who cannot work from home should be offered a test once a week, paid for by the company. Those who have frequent contact with customers are entitled to a maximum of two tests per week.

What happens now?

Now that the law has passed the Bundestag, it needs to also receive the approval of the federal states in the Bundesrat. It is expected to pass and go to the Federal Council this Thursday, coming into force soon after. If passed by both houses, all affected districts would be required to implement the new rules immediately. It would initially apply until the end of June.



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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