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FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the subject of coronavirus

The questions and answers published relate to the statutory order on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which applies as of 01 June 2020 (provisionally) up to and including 14 June 2020.

What contact can I have with other people?

The principle of social distancing applies: Contact with other people should be restricted to the absolute minimum necessary. Try to have contact with as few people as possible and always with the same group of people. Whenever possible, keep a minimum distance of one and a half meters from other people.

This excludes contact with members of your own household, spouses, life partners, civil union partners, relatives in the direct line of descent, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, and members of their respective households (family circle).

In the case of private gatherings in enclosed spaces, it is essential to apply hygiene and social distancing rules, to limit the number of people so as to be able to observe the 1.5-meter social distancing rule and to ensure sufficient ventilation. If possible, private gatherings should take place outdoors.

Which stores, facilities and businesses can open, which remain closed?

As a general rule, any stores, facilities and businesses that do not remain strictly prohibited can open. The operators or persons in charge must ensure that hygiene measures are in place, entry is monitored, queues are avoided and social distancing is observed.

Applicable to these stores, facilities and businesses is the rule that only one person may be admitted per 10 square meters of the total area accessible to the public. However, provided the social distancing rule of minimum 1.5 meters is observed, four customers or visitors are permitted to enter at any one time irrespective of the total area.

Strictly prohibited and/or to remain closed are

  • Saunas
  • Clubs and discos
  • Shisha bars
  • Sex services, prostitution, swinger clubs

What exactly does the requirement to wear a mask mean?

In Saarland, you are required to wear a face covering when you visit any businesses, stores or weekly markets and also facilities, establishments or other business premises that are currently allowed to open and operate respectively. This also includes the relevant waiting areas. This requirement is also applicable on public transport to both private individuals and transport workers.

The following applies to schools: A face covering must be worn all over the school grounds. Although it is not required in classrooms, wearing a face covering is generally allowed.

Children up to 6 years of age are exempted from this obligation. This exception also applies if the obligation conflicts with health factors. In this case, it is not necessary to submit a medical certificate but a good reason must be given for the exemption. Alternatively, it is also possible to cover the mouth and nose with a scarf.  

In principle, wearing a face covering is recommended when coming into contact with anyone outside your household, especially if you are interacting with vulnerable people or where it is not possible to constantly keep the minimum distance of 1.5 meters from others.

This is also important because, according to current scientific understanding, if you are infected with this new type of coronavirus, you may already be contagious for one to three days before showing the first symptoms or, in some cases, the disease takes its course without you showing any symptoms whatsoever. Although the protective function of a so-called cloth face covering or community mask has not been proven for the wearer, if you are infected, it can help prevent you passing the virus on to other people. Consequently, everyone protects others by blocking droplets generated by speaking, coughing or sneezing.

It is also important that medical face masks and FFP masks should continue to be reserved for medical staff and care workers. Moreover, medical masks with an exhalation valve should not in any event be worn in the public sphere!

Are church services and other religious acts allowed?

Religious services and common prayers may be held in the open air, in churches, mosques, synagogues and other premises that are used to practice religion undisturbed as guaranteed by German basic law. This is subject to the limited number of participants required to protect against infection as well as adherence to the social distancing rules and special protection and hygiene provisions.

What are the conditions to allow restaurants and other catering facilities to open?

Restaurants and other catering facilities can open subject to the provisions set down by the State Government in its hygiene plan.

The following requirements in particular are to be met in the process:

  • Business operations can begin at 6.00 am at the earliest and end at 11.00 pm at the latest.
  • Employees must wear a face covering unless this conflicts with health factors or industrial safety provisions or unless any other equivalent measures to protect against infection are in place.
  • Access is monitored and queues are to be avoided.
  • Appropriate measures are adopted to ensure complete traceability (name, address and contact details) of one representative per household in each case. Such data may only be passed on to the health authorities on corresponding request and must be deleted on expiry of a month after collection in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

Hygiene plan of the State Government for catering and accommodation providers 

Can I do sport and use sports facilities to do it?   

Course, training and sports activities, as well as the operation of dance schools, are allowed again subject to certain requirements.

The requirements to be met are

  • Contact-free exercise, with the exception of the designated family circle
  • Exercising alone or in small groups of up to 10 people, whereby the focus is on individual training  
  • Strict observance of hygiene and disinfection measures and social distancing, especially when several people are using sports equipment
  • Avoidance of queues at entrance to facilities
  • No use of social and recreation rooms at the sports facilities
  • The training activities do not impose any specific risk to vulnerable people
  • No spectators

Holding competitions in recreational sport is allowed subject to the same requirements provided an utilisation and hygiene plan has been prepared by the sports association responsible and approved by the State Government (Ministry for Internal Affairs, Construction and Sport in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, Social Affairs, Women and the Family).

Up to what date do the current restrictions apply?

The new rules and statutory orders in place as a result of coronavirus apply as of 01 June 2020 provisionally up to and including 14 June 2020. Based on the progression of the infection numbers, the State Government will examine in due course whether adjustments to or easing of restrictions are possible. Of course, the State Government will continue to provide up-to-date information on this. Please check to see if there are any extensions to the measures.

What medical services can be used?

Of course, the utilisation of medical, veterinary or psychotherapy services is still possible. This includes, in the main, consultations, other medical treatments, blood donations and visits to healers or members of the health professions, provided this is medically urgent. Arranging an appointment in advance is recommended whenever possible. Do not be afraid of using medical services to help you if you are not feeling well.

Why isn’t everyone being tested?

On the one hand, testing capacity is limited and this would not be achievable. Moreover, if you are well, the COVID-19 test does not give any information on whether you can become ill. So, this would only put an unnecessary strain on testing capacities.

The guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute are applicable on the question of whether a test is successful or not.

What rules apply to minor and major events?

Events, congregations and gatherings with over 10 participants generally remain prohibited up to and including 14 June.

Explicitly permitted subject to observance of the social distancing rules are events and gatherings  

  • with up to 10 participants,
  • in which – based on one person of reference – only the designated family circle and, at the most, members of one other household participate,
  • that serve to operate facilities generally allowed to open; the respective social distancing and hygiene rules must be observed in the process.

As of 15 June, events with up to 100 people can also take place in the open air and with up to 50 people in enclosed spaces. This is subject to specific requirements being met, including registration of events with over 10 people (except within the designated family circle) at the local police authorities and ensuring traceability of the participants.

Major events with over 1,000 people remain prohibited up to and including 31 August 2020.

When can swimming pools open again?

Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, bathing beaches and thermal baths can open as of 08 June 2020 provided they meet the statutory requirements to protect against infection imposed by the local police authorities (e.g. minimum distances, limit to number of visitors) and adhere to the relevant hygiene and protective measures.

| health, prevention

Information on the use of homemade masks and medical face coverings

What protection do face coverings provide?

  • According to current scientific understanding, if you are infected with the new type of coronavirus, you may be contagious for up to three days before showing the first symptoms. There are even cases where the disease takes its course without you showing any symptoms whatsoever. Therefore, it is advisable to wear a face covering (mouth and nose) as a precaution in situations where it is not possible to keep the distance recommended from other people.
  • As of Monday, 27.04.2020, it is obligatory for all citizens from the age of six in Saarland to wear a face covering and/or a so-called community mask when travelling on local public transport and shopping.
  • The purpose of the face covering is primarily to protect yourself and others. In this way, it is possible to block droplets generated by coughing, sneezing or speaking. It is also more difficult for contaminated hands to come into contact with the mucosa of the mouth and nose. Moreover, wearing a face covering can contribute to an increased awareness of mindful interaction with others (keeping your distance!).
  • However, wearing a face covering must not in any way create a false sense of security. It is still imperative to follow the coughing and sneezing rules, practise good hand hygiene and social distancing (minimum 2 meters) to protect yourself and others.

What must I take into consideration when wearing a face covering?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap (minimum 20 to 30 seconds) before putting on a face covering.
  • When putting it on, ensure that your nose, mouth and chin are covered and that the face covering forms as tight a seal as possible around the edges.
  • Change the face covering as soon as it becomes wet from exhaled moisture to prevent additional germs spreading.
  • While wearing the face covering, avoid touching or moving it.
  • If possible, do not touch the outside when taking off the face covering as it may be contaminated with pathogens. Take hold of the side ties or cords and carefully place the face covering down.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap (minimum 20 to 30 seconds) after taking off the face covering.
  • The face coverings and/or surgical masks are designed for single use in their original medical application. As emergency masks in terms of the current requirement to wear a mask, they may also be used several times for a short period (e.g. running quick errands). They are not intended for permanent use.

Face coverings and medical masks – What is the difference?

 Particle-filtering half masks

The masks protect against harmful substances and also viruses. There are FFP1, FFP2 and FFP3 masks, depending on filter performance. FFP2 and FFP3 masks are used within the framework of general protective clothing for treating COVID-19 patients, and also especially in intensive care units. These masks should be reserved for medical staff and workspaces respectively that require special protection against influences harmful to health!

Face coverings (mouth and nose)

Medical face coverings, so-called surgical masks, are used primarily in the medical sector, such as in doctors’ surgeries and hospitals or in care. They can prevent the spread of the wearer’s saliva or respiratory droplets, their main purpose being to protect others. Industrial ‘community masks’ are also manufactured; although they are similar to medical face coverings, they provide less protection but are also suitable for everyday use.

DIY masks

DIY masks are sewn out of commercially available fabrics and come in a wide range of variations. There are numerous instructions on how to sew them on the Internet. The masks are also produced by a number of companies, such as textile manufacturers. If no such mask is available, it is also possible to hold or tie a cloth or scarf in front of the mouth and nose to cover them. Those wearing DIY masks cannot depend on the mask protecting them or others against transmission of SARS-CoV-2 as there has been no evidence of proper effective protection by these masks. Despite such limitations, wearing suitable masks can help reduce the speed of the respiratory flow or droplet expectoration and raises awareness for social distancing and health-related mindful interaction.

Instructions for those making DIY masks:

  • In the case of the description/advertisement of a facemask by the manufacturer or supplier, it is important to ensure that it does not give the impression that it is a medical product or protective equipment.
  • Absolute clarity in respect of the categorisation and description of the mask is required, so that it does not suggest any protective function that has not been proven.
  • It should be made explicitly clear that it is neither a medical product nor personal protective equipment.
  • Tightly woven fabrics are more suitable than lightly woven fabrics in this connection.

Instructions for those wearing a DIY mask:

  • The masks should only be used for personal use

  • The mask must be placed properly over the mouth, nose and cheeks, forming as tight a seal as possible around the edges in order to minimise air penetration from the sides.

  • When using the mask for the first time, it is necessary to check whether it allows enough air through to be able to breathe as normally as possible.

  • After taking it off, the mask should be kept in an airtight bag or similar or immediately washed. It should only be stored in this way for the shortest possible time primarily to prevent the formation of mould.