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Corona Protection Ordinance: These rules go into effect on Monday, Jan. 25 in NRW

Corona Protection Ordinance : These rules go into effect on Monday, Jan. 25 in NRW

The lockdown in North Rhine-Westphalia will become more stringent as of January 25, especially with regard to masks. The state of NRW has now published the new Corona Protection Ordinance. Here is what you need to know about the new rules.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has published the new Corona Protection Ordinance, which will be valid from Monday, January 25. The federal and state governments had agreed on stricter rules to combat the coronavirus pandemic because of the continuing high number of new infections. On public transport, shopping, in medical facilities and at church services, medical-grade masks will be mandatory. According to the NRW Ministry of Health, people from one household are still only allowed to meet with one other person. Employers are called upon to continue to allow their employees to work from home. Company cafeterias and dining halls will remain closed for the most part.

On January 5, federal and state governments agreed to restrict travel in coronavirus hotspots. Districts or towns with more than 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days are considered hotspots. Residents in hotspots are restricted from traveling more than 15 kilometers from their home, unless there is a valid reason. On Friday, the district of Höxter was above the 200 mark. Here’s an overview of the rules going into effect January 25:

Social contact

In public areas, people must keep at a minimum distance of 1.5 meters from other persons. Contact in private meetings is restricted to one other person from another household, who may be accompanied by children who are being looked after. Anyone who is accompanying, caring for or supervising minors is exempt from this rule. Children on playgrounds are also exempt. Professional meetings that must take place in person remain permitted.

15-kilometer rule

The rule about limiting travel to 15 kilometers in coronavirus hotspots is not in the new ordinance. According to a spokesperson for the NRW Ministry of Health, the affected districts must include this in their own regulations.

Mask obligation

On public transport or while shopping, in medical facilities and at church services, medical-grade masks are mandatory. This includes so-called surgical masks and FFP2 masks or their comparable standards KN95 and N95. In other enclosed public spaces, cloth masks suffice.

This also applies in the workplace if a distance of one and a half meters from other persons cannot be safely maintained. Masks must also be worn in the immediate vicinity of stores and on the property of the store, including the parking lot or any paths that lead to the store.

Medical-grade masks are also mandatory in all retail stores and showrooms, at weekly markets, in shopping centers, at bus stops and train stations, in cabs, doctors' offices and similar health care facilities, at the post office, in banks and at gas stations, and on playgrounds. Children who do not yet attend school do not need to wear a mask. People who cannot wear masks for medical reasons also don’t need to wear a mask but must have a medical certificate to prove it. Children under age 14 who cannot wear a medical-grade mask because it does not fit - are allowed to wear a cloth mask. Keeping a distance of at least 1.5 meters is still required.

The requirement to wear a cloth mask continues to apply in daycare centers and other daycare and childcare facilities, as well as in school buildings and on school grounds.

Schools and universities

Schools and daycares will remained closed until February 14. The 2.5 million school students in NRW continue to use distance learning - but emergency child care is available for students up to grade six. Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer ( FDP) said they are proceeding with distance learning only to avoid a double burden on teachers which otherwise would force them to teach both in the classroom and online.

Schools will offer in school child care for students in grades 1 to 6 if they cannot be cared for or supervised at home, or if there is a risk to the child’s well-being in such a case. But they will not receive regular instruction during the childcare.

Final exams are to be held regularly this school year as well. This was Gebauer's summary on Thursday following an agreement to this effect by the Conference of Education Ministers.

Kitas and day care

Daycare centers in the state of NRW continue to offer only limited care - if at all possible, parents should keep their children at home altogether. In daycare centers, the maximum amount of care for each child is reduced by ten hours per week, Family Minister Joachim Stamp announced. Groups are also to be strictly separated from one another. At the same time, Stamp appealed: "The fewer children there are in the daycare centers, the easier it is for the staff (...) to organize the everyday routine there," said Stamp. There will be no emergency care in the Kitas like in the spring of 2020, when in the first lockdown only parents with jobs viewed as essential could have their children placed in child care.

Stamp (FDP) and Finance Minister Lutz Lienenkämper (CDU) want to refund daycare fees for the month of January. The two ministers have agreed on this, Stamp wrote in a letter to parents with children in daycare in NRW.

Visits to nursing homes

In nursing homes and similar facilities for persons with disabilities, the testing and hygiene rules remain stringent. Visitors must wear FFP2 masks. As far as possible, a rapid test is recommended and offered to them prior to their visit. Employees must be tested every three days and also wear FFP2 masks when coming into direct contact with people in need of care. Residents should also be tested regularly.

Stores

Retail stores remain closed until February 14. Exceptions: Grocery stores, weekly food markets, direct food marketers, pickup and delivery services, beverage stores, health food stores, baby specialty stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores, drug stores, optometrists, hearing aid providers, gas stations, automotive and bicycle repair shops, banks, post offices, dry cleaners, laundromats, newspaper sales, pet supply stores, and wholesale.

Customers per square meter

For stores with a sales area of up to 800 square meters, the current Corona Protection Ordinance states that no more than one person per ten square meters may enter the store. If the sales area is larger, a maximum of one person per 20 square meters of sales area may be in the store. In the case of shopping centers, the total sales area is measured.

Restaurants and alcoholic beverages

Restaurants remain closed except for takeouts and deliveries. Some restaurants in Bonn and the region have adapted to the situation and offer these services. Sales of beverages with alcohol are not permitted between 11 pm and 6 am, and consuming alcoholic beverages in public places is not allowed at any time.

Religious services

Religious services as well as gatherings of religious communities are allowed only if a minimum distance of 1.5 meters is maintained and medical-grade masks are worn - even in place. Worshipers are not allowed to sing. Churches and communities of faith must register with authorities if they expect the facility to be at capacity. Churches and worship communities must keep a record of contact information for all visitors.

Gatherings and meetings

Generally, all events are prohibited until February 14, 2021. Exceptions apply to legally designated bodies of both public and private law institutions, societies and homeowners' associations, political parties or clubs, funerals and meetings in accordance with the Assembly Act. Special precautions must be taken here.

Sports

Recreational and amateur sports are prohibited on and in all public and private sports facilities, gyms, swimming pools and similar (as in the spring). This also applies to individual sports in sports facilities/clubs, such as tennis or golf. This means that only sports activities alone or in pairs are permitted outdoors.

Leisure facilities

The operation of swimming pools, saunas, spas, amusement parks, indoor playgrounds, arcades, casinos, clubs and discos is prohibited until Feb. 14. Ski lifts are also not allowed to run.

Concerts and performing arts

Concerts and performances or visits in theaters, opera houses, concert halls, cinemas and other public or private facilities, as well as museums, art exhibitions, galleries, castles, memorials and similar facilities are not allowed. Rehearsals, concerts and performances for recording or broadcast on television, radio and online are permitted but without an audience. Drive-in theaters and similar are allowed if the distance between vehicles is at least 1.5 meters. Music festivals and similar events are prohibited until at least Feb. 14, 2021.

Hotels and hostels

Overnight stays for tourists or for private purposes are not allowed. Only people who need to travel for business are permitted overnight stays.

Services and cosmetics

Services and skilled trades where a minimum distance of 1.50 meters from the customer cannot be maintained (in particular, facials, cosmetics, nail salons, manicures, massages, tattooing and piercing) are prohibited. Hair salons have been closed since December 16 and remain so until the end of January. Medically necessary treatments, for example physiotherapy, occupational therapy and podiatry/foot care, will remain permitted.

(Orig. text: ga / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)