One of the ways in which Germany is facing the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is to reduce the opportunities for people to socialise. Social-distancing as a policy is being practiced in many European countries following the example of how China has faced the virus. This policy has led to the closure of most shops, restaurants and other areas where people gather. Here is a list of what Germany is closing to face the crisis:
- Non-essential shops (non-supermarkets) and shopping centres,
- Public houses, nightclubs and bars,
- Zoos, animal parks,
- Leisure centres,
- Operas, theatres and concert halls,
- Adult education, language schools and music schools,
- Casinos and betting shops,
- Sports facilities, swimming pools, gyms and fitness studios.
Schools are also closed and offices have been encouraged to employ “home office” whenever possible with their workers. Restaurants and cafés are open at the moment in some parts of Germany they are on reduced opening hours. States such as Bavaria and Saarland have announced that restaurants will be closed. Mosques, churches, synagogues and other buildings of religious congregation are also closed.
Here is a list of what businesses are currently open in Germany:
- Delivery services,
- Petrol stations,
- Post offices,
As this situation develops it is possible that further steps will be taken to further reduce the risk of infection. Some supermarkets are introducing the measure of only allowing a limited number of people into the shop at any one time.
Economic Measures: Reduced Working Hours
One of the economic measures taken to combat the economic difficulties emerging from the outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus is that workers are being placed on reduced working hours. Under German law it is possible in some cases that the state would provide some degree of compensation for this measure. The allowance for reduced working hours’ compensation comes from § 96 Social Security Code / SGB III and it is allowed for where:
- the loss of work is substantial,
- it is due to economic reasons or an unavoidable event.
This applies, for example, if deliveries are not made and production has to be restricted due to an unavoidable event. The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is an example of this unavoidable event in action. With borders closing, with huge disruptions to supply chains caused by the international public health and economic measures taken to deal with the spread, many companies are experiencing these factors. Reduced working hours’ conditions is one way in which many companies can maintain their staff during this very difficult time.
Government authorities will determine whether a business is eligible for the reduced working hours’ compensation. The eligibility is based on the level of disruption experienced by the business. If it is substantial (which is the case for many companies at the moment) and if working hours have to be temporarily reduced to keep people in work then they should consider applying for this.
The German government and authorities have already announced that they will be supporting businesses that have been forced into this measure. For more information about reduced working hours please visit our article on COVID-19 coronavirus and employment law.
Economic Measures: Borders Closing
Earlier this week Germany announced that it was closing its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland. This measure follows in the wake of Czech Republic and Poland having already closed their border to Germany. The measures introduced do allow for those transporting food products and in some cases commuters to cross the borders. However, those doing so are experiencing huge disruption and delays while doing so. Germany has also closed its borders to people coming in from third countries (non-EU /EEA countries). However, long-term residence permit holders in Germany are not included in this travel ban.
This measure is only a temporary measure to deal with the arising crisis. It is expected to last for one month. For more information about the travel ban to Germany due to COVID-19 coronavirus please read our article.
Economic Measures: Cancellation of Events
One of the ways in which Germany is ensuring that there are limited public gatherings is by cancelling events. Some major concerts and other events such as Bonn’s Beethovenfest, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the famous composer’s birth have been cancelled. These steps have been taken to ensure that audiences of over 1000 people will not gather together.
In the event that you were to attend a major event or concert and has been cancelled by the authorities, the ticket fees paid must be refunded. As the event has not taken place for which the person has paid their fees, the patron is released from an obligation to pay for the event they have not attended. The organisers can also claim “force majeure” (Act of God) in order to be released from liability for the event not taking place. Our article on “COVID-19, Commercial Law and Force Majeure” outlines this legal principle in more detail.
Patrons are not entitled to a refund if they paid for a ticket for an event, that did take place, but they did not attend for fear of contracting coronavirus or because they were in quarantine.
The current crisis is challenging for everyone. Every day there are changes and difficulties arising. At Schlun & Elseven Attorneys we are committed to providing our clients with the news and legal developments as they occur. On our page “COVID-19 Coronavirus: Legal Implications in Germany” we are updating our articles and producing content in order to remain up-to-date on these changes. Many clients will have legal questions from the fallout of this crisis and we aim to provide the answers to them.
At Schlun & Elseven Attorneys we are a multidisciplinary law firm based in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf. Our lawyers can deliver their services in a range of languages including English. Our lawyers can be reached from distance if required through email, phone and through video conferencing facilities.