FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the subject of coronavirus
Following you will find a list of the most frequently asked questions and answers that we have currently received on the subject of coronavirus (status: 19.05.2020). Please note that there may generally be amendments and further measures in place at any time in view of the changing situation. We will constantly update you, especially on www.corona.saarland.de and Saarland’s social media channels, on all new developments.
What contact can I have with other people?
A small gathering of several people – in each case based on one person of reference – is allowed within the circle of the members of your household, with 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, and also members of another household.
However, everyone is still required to restrict physical and social contact with other people to the absolute minimum necessary. It is very important that each individual is personally responsible for any contact with other people. This means that social distancing of at least 1.5 meters still applies and, if possible, face coverings or masks should be worn to protect others.
Larger gatherings and events remain prohibited, except if they serve to operate facilities that can generally open; in this case, it is essential to observe the respective social distancing and hygiene rules.
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 20 square meters of the total area accessible to the public; on the condition that the infection rate remains low, this rule will be eased as of 25 May to one person per 15 square meters. Moreover, 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, public swimming pools, wellness centres, and thermal baths
- Clubs, discos, and shisha bars
- Theatres and concert halls
- Trade fairs
- Special markets and funfairs
- Sex services, prostitution, swinger clubs
- Other establishments of public entertainment
- Youth centres and similar facilities with the exception of socio-educational institutions
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?
Visiting churches, mosques, synagogues and the premises of other faith or ideological communities individually is allowed subject to the social distancing rules.
Religious services and common prayers may also be held in the open air, in churches, mosques, synagogues and other premises of religious practices, whereby the limited number of participants required, social distancing rules and special protection and hygiene provisions must be guaranteed.
Can playgrounds open?
In principle, playgrounds in the open air can open subject to special protective measures. Local police authorities set down the relevant legal requirements to protect against infection.
Can zoos and animal parks open?
Zoological gardens, animal parks and similar facilities of a spacious park-like nature in the open air can generally open. Access is only permitted outside the buildings and in observance of the hygiene requirements and limited number of visitors imposed.
Do restaurants and other catering businesses have to remain closed?
As of 18 May restaurants and other catering businesses can open again 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 10.00 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 protection are in place.
- Access is monitored and queues are avoided.
- Appropriate measures are adopted to ensure complete traceability (name, address and other 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.
Are hairdresser and beauty treatment services allowed?
Hairdressers and also beauty, nail, tattoo and piercing salons can open again as of 4 May subject to the protection strategies adopted.
Can I do sport and use sports facilities to do it?
Course, training and sports activities are allowed again subject to certain requirements. This also applies to indoor sports, fitness studios and dance schools.
The requirements to be met are
- Contact-free exercise
- Exercising alone or in small groups of up to 5 people
- Strict observation of hygiene and disinfection measures and social distancing rules, especially when several people are using sports equipment
- No use of changing rooms
- No use of wet areas (opening separate toilets possible)
- 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
Activities undertaken for training purposes of a professional sport are also permitted subject to specific requirements.
Is public transport still in operation?
Many people depend on public transport. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the public transport system continues to provide a reliable service. Various safety measures have been adopted by the operators and it is obligatory for everyone on public transport to wear a mask and observe the hygiene and social distancing rules.
Up to what date do the current restrictions apply?
The restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus epidemic and all related measures apply provisionally up to and including 31 May 2020. Based on the progression of the infection numbers, the situation will be examined in due course to decide whether adjustments to or easing of the 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 border crossings are open? Will more be opened?
There are no longer any general border controls on the border between Luxembourg and Germany. Controls will remain in place on the border to France – provisionally scheduled to end on 15 June – but only spot checks. All cross-border transport routes have been opened again for border crossing.
In principle, it is still essential to have a valid reason to travel into the country. However, an additional easing of travel restrictions for family or personal reasons is planned.
What must I take into consideration when travelling to Germany from abroad?
As of 18 May not only those who must cross the border to commute to work or whose activities are essential for important sectors and critical infrastructures to function properly are exempted from the quarantine obligation. Travel to Germany from the European Union or other Schengen associated countries, as well as from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is also possible without quarantine from that date– provided there has been no previous stay in a third country prior to arrival.
Those arriving from a third country who travel to Saarland by land, sea or air, are required immediately on arrival to take the most direct route to their home or other suitable accommodation to isolate themselves there continuously for a period of 14 days after their arrival; this also applies to those who first travelled to a different state in the Federal Republic of Germany. During this period, such people are not allowed to receive visitors from outside their own household. They are also required to report without delay to the relevant authorities and to notify the relevant authorities immediately if they develop any symptoms of the disease.
Please go to the corresponding statutory order for information on the specific regulations: Verordnung zu Quarantänemaßnahmen für Ein- und Rückreisende zur Bekämpfung des Coronavirus
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 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.