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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 21st September 2020 (provisionally) up to and including 4th October 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 (designated family circle).

In the case of private gatherings in enclosed spaces at home, 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 5 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

  • Clubs and discos
  • prostitution, swinger clubs

What rules apply to minor and major events?

Gatherings with over 10 participants are generally prohibited.

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.

In addition, events with up to 900 people can also take place in the open air and with up to 450 people in enclosed spaces. This is subject to specific requirements being met, including registration of events with over 20 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 Dexember 2020.

When do I have to wear a face covering (face mask)?

A face covering should be worn in public spaces, especially when you come into contact with vulnerable people.

In principle, everyone from the age of 6 must also wear a face covering, unless the obligation conflicts with health reasons, in the following situations:

  • Employees and passengers using local public transport, and at stations, airports, bus stops and in waiting areas (proof is to be provided for those exempt from this obligation due to health reasons)
  • Employees and customers at fairs, markets and stores as well as corresponding waiting areas
  • Employees and customers of services involving physical proximity, provided this does not conflict with the nature of the service
  • Employees of restaurants, other catering facilities and accommodation providers, provided this does not conflict with industrial safety provisions or equivalent measures to protect against infection are in place
  • Visitors to hospitals, care homes, rehabilitation centres, doctors’ surgeries, dentists and therapists, as well as outpatient hospital services and other healthcare facilities

The full set of regulations on the so-called obligation to wear a face covering can be found in the ordinance on the fight against the coronavirus pandemic § 2 Rechtsverordnung zur Bekämpfung der Corona-Pandemie.

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

  • Observation of the social distancing rule of minimum 1.5 m if the particular type of sport allows contact-free exercise or if the activity is not undertaken within the designated family circle
  • Exercising alone or in in groups of up to 35 people
  • Contact-free exercise, with the exception of the designated family circle and with the exception of groups of up to 10 people
  • Strict observance of hygiene and disinfection measures, especially when several people are using sports equipment
  • Use of changing and wet areas subject to social distancing and hygiene rules
  • The training activities do not impose any specific risk to vulnerable people
  • Limited number of spectators according to the rules applicable to events

Holding competitions in recreational sport is allowed subject to the same requirements provided a utilisation and hygiene plan has been prepared by the sports association responsible.

What does mandatory contact tracing mean?

It is mandatory to guarantee the possibility of contact tracing in the following areas:

  • The operation of restaurants and other catering facilities of every description
  • The operation of cinemas, theatres, operas, concert halls and other cultural events and associated rehearsals
  • The operation of indoor play areas
  • Religious services and funerals
  • The operation of courses, training and competitions in sport
  • Other events that are generally permitted
  • The operation of hotels and campsites as well as any other type of accommodation facilities

The operators, event organisers and other persons responsible must ensure that appropriate measures for complete traceability are in place. This includes noting the first name, surname, address and contact details as well as the arrival time 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 one month after collection in accordance with the applicable General Data Protection Regulation.

Who must submit a hygiene plan?

An individual protection and hygiene plan that meets the specific requirements of the respective offer is to be prepared and submitted to the competent authorities on request by:

  • Operators of or other persons responsible for all establishments, facilities and businesses that are not prohibited
  • Event organisers of all generally permitted events
  • Persons responsible for courses, training and competitions in sport

These plans must include measures to reduce the number of contacts, ensure observance of the social distancing rule of minimum 1.5 m, protect customers, visitors and employees against infection and undertake cleaning and disinfection at more frequent intervals. The relevant recommendations made by the Robert Koch Institute on protection against infection in their respective version, the guidelines issued by the respective health and safety authorities and the competent professional associations are to be taken into consideration in the process of making these plans.

The Federal State Government or the competent specialised department in consultation with the Ministry of Health, Social Affairs, Women and the Family may determine more detailed and particular requirements for protection and hygiene plans. Corresponding framework hygiene plans are published on Hygienekonzepte.They must be observed by operators, event organisers and other persons in charge.

Sector-specific framework hygiene plans are necessary especially for

  • The operation of restaurants and other catering facilities of every description
  • The operation of hotels and campsites as well as any other type of accommodation facilities
  • The operation of outdoor and indoor swimming pools, public bathing beaches, thermal baths and saunas
  • The organisation of theatrical performances, operas or concerts and cinema shows as well as other cultural events and associated rehearsals
  • The organisation of other events
  • The organisation of coach tours

What are the rules for people coming to Saarland from a so-called ‘coronavirus hotspot’?

Hotels, campsites and accommodation providers of every type may not host guests who have travelled to Saarland from an administrative district or other federal state of the Federal Republic of Germany or are resident there, where the number of new infections of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 published by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has been above 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in the seven days preceding the planned arrival.

In the event of a localised occurrence of infection that can be clearly delineated to a specific region, the restrictions in line with the procedures in the affected areas can be limited to that particular region. This does not apply to guests who have a medical certificate in the German or English language to confirm that there is no indication of infection with Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and who immediately submit it to the competent local police authorities on request. The medical certificate must be based on a molecular biological test taken in a member state of the European Union or in any other country included on the list drawn up by the RKI of countries with the appropriate standard of quality in this case, and on the test having been taken maximum 48 hours before arrival.

Moreover, the rule does not apply to guests whose stay in Saarland is essential and cannot be postponed for professional or medical reasons or who have a good reason to travel (especially to visit members of the designated family circle, exercise custody or visitation rights or support or care for someone in need of protection).

In other respects, the competent local police authorities may make further exceptions on request in duly justified individual cases. The provisions set down in the regulation on quarantine measures to combat coronavirus for people entering and returning to Saarland continue to apply to those travelling from risk areas outside Germany.

Do I have to go into quarantine after staying in a risk area (e.g. on holiday)?

Travelling to Saarland from a risk area continues to increase the danger of spreading coronavirus. Therefore, according to the regulation on quarantine measures to combat coronavirus for people entering and returning to Saarland, anyone entering or returning to Saarland who stayed in a risk area within 14 days of arrival should go into quarantine. The person can either stay at home or in other suitable accommodation to quarantine for 14 days, self-isolating for the duration. Visits by other people are not permitted during this time.

Considered to be a risk area is any country or region outside the Federal Republic of Germany in which there is an increased risk of infection with coronavirus at the start of the journey to the Federal Republic of Germany. Classification as a risk area is determined by the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, and published by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

The quarantine rule does not apply to

  • people who possess a medical certificate. The medical certificate must be issued in the German, French or English language, be based on a molecular biological test taken in a member state of the European Union or in any other country published by the Robert Koch Institute maximum 48 hours before arrival. It must be submitted to the competent authorities immediately on request. This certificate must be kept for minimum 14 days after arrival.
  •  people who travel to Germany daily or who stay for up to 5 days because their journey is essential and cannot be postponed for professional or medical reasons.
  •  people who have stayed in a risk area for less than 72 hours.
  •  people who have another very good reason (especially shared custody, visits from life partners, urgent medical treatment, support or care for someone in need of protection, training and study purposes).

These exceptions apply exclusively to people not showing any symptoms of the COVID 19 disease. Moreover, people entering or returning to Saarland are obliged to report to the competent local police authorities if they develop symptoms of the disease within 14 days of their arrival.

| 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.