Düsseldorf Continued high fines for mask refusers, stricter rules for private parties and new requirements for travel returnees from risk areas: The NRW government has adopted new corona rules. An overview.
The current Corona Protection Ordinance has been in force in North Rhine-Westphalia since September 16. An adapted regulation is to take effect from October 1. These are the currently valid rules in detail:
Duty to wear a mask
Mouth and nose protection is intended to minimise the risk of infecting other people with the coronavirus. Self-stitched fabric masks or scarves and shawls pulled over the face are also permitted. Since 27 April, this obligation has been in force in buses and trains, in all shops and exhibition rooms, at weekly markets, in shopping centres, at bus stops and railway stations, in taxis, doctors' surgeries and similar health care facilities, at the post office, in banks and at petrol stations.
Fines for refusing to wear masks
In line with the new nationwide regulation, since 1 September, those refusing to wear masks have also been liable to a fine of 50 Euro in NRW if they do not wear them in places where masks are compulsory - such as railway stations or shops. Karl-Josef Laumann emphasised that the fine can be imposed by the regulatory authorities without warning. Up to now, the fine has been 150 Euro - but was only due after a warning. ( NRW will retain the 150 Euro fine on buses and trams.
Masks in school lessons
At the beginning of the new school year, masks still had to be worn in class. In the meantime, this obligation has also been dropped for the older pupils. From Tuesday, 1 September, headmasters at secondary and vocational schools may only issue a "mask requirement", which is not compulsory. Nationwide, the obligation continues to apply in school buildings and on the school premises until the pupils have taken their permanent seat in the classroom - and also when they leave it. It also remains in fixed groups, said Yvonne Gebauer. However, every pupil and teacher can decide voluntarily to continue wearing the mask in class as a precaution.
Enhanced Corona Early Warning System
In NRW, the corona early warning system is being tightened up. In future, local authorities where the seven-day index rises above 35 will have to implement concrete protective measures to contain the virus. This could mean, for example, a ban on alcohol in public places or an upper limit for events, according to a federal government draft. The consequences could also include stricter obligations to wear masks or the cancellation of larger events. If the number rises above 50, further precautions are to be taken in coordination with the Ministry of Health. In particular, the number of participants should then be further limited - according to the Federal Government's ideas to a maximum of ten participants in private rooms and a maximum of 25 participants in public rooms.
Stricter rules for private parties
According to the NRW Health Ministry, "private celebrations of outstanding occasion in public space" - i.e. anniversaries, weddings, baptisms, funerals, birthday and graduation ceremonies - must be registered with the local public order office at least two weeks in advance if the number of participants exceeds 50. The upper limit for private celebrations remains at 150 people. The host is responsible for the celebration and is obliged to submit a list with the details of all guests before the celebration begins. This enables the authorities to check whether the hosts are complying with the Corona Protection Ordinance. Anyone who organises a party must therefore also expect the public order office to come by and check. Hosts who do not adhere to the regulations can expect to be fined up to 2500 Euro. But individual guests can also be fined up to 250 Euro. The announced change is to be included in the new Corona Protection Ordinance from 1 October.
For celebrations in private homes, the basic right to privacy still applies. In view of the persistently high corona infection rates, the Federal Government has proposed an upper limit of 25 participants for celebrations in private premises. So far, however, the public health authority still relies on the personal responsibility of the people.
Additional requirements for organisers
Organisers are also subject to additional requirements: If the event is planned for more than 500 participants, the hygiene and infection protection concept must also present convincing solutions for arrival and departure. Events with more than 1,000 participants must now also be approved by the Ministry of Health - if the number of infections increases, it is possible to "revoke" this at any time. These regulations have been in force since 12 September.
For the time being, large events and celebrations where contact tracking and compliance with hygiene rules is not possible remain prohibited until the end of the year.
For cultural and other events, the threshold above which a hygiene concept must be presented remains at the number of 300 people. Large events with more than 300 persons are still only permitted in agreement with the responsible health authority and the state government and require a special hygiene and infection protection concept. If there are fixed seating arrangements and if it is possible to ensure the traceability of participants, the requirement for a distance of one and a half metres may be waived in the future as well.
From 17 August, day care centre children in North Rhine-Westphalia were able to return to regular operation in their traditional groups with the originally booked childcare hours. Since then, a regulation suitable for everyday use has also been in place for "children with sniffles". The new regulations also apply to day care for day parents. If the infection situation deteriorates, however, restrictions could always be imposed, says NRW Family Minister Joachim Stamp (FDP).
Access restrictions in retail
From 15 June, the area-based access restriction in shops was extended from one person per ten square metres to one person per seven square metres of sales area. According to the Corona Protection Ordinance, this also applies to museums and exhibitions as well as zoos and animal parks until 31 August.
Restaurants, cafés and pubs with seats have been allowed to open indoors and outdoors since 11 May. The prerequisite is a 1.5 metre table distance, measured from backrest to backrest. Only people from the same group may sit at the same table. The hosts must register the guests by name. There are no restrictions on opening hours or length of stay. Buffets with open meals are still prohibited. Clubs and discos must, however, remain closed.
Flea markets and leisure facilities
Since 15 June, flea markets etc have been allowed to take place again in NRW, provided they follow a hygiene and infection protection concept. Even "temporary amusement parks from a number of fairground operators" can probably still be approved in coordination with the responsible authorities.
Wellness and adventure pools
Wellness- and sauna facilities as well as adventure- and fun pools have resumed their operation under the conditions of hygiene and infection protection standards.
Outdoor and indoor swimming pools
It is likely that a limited number of guests will continue to be required, the constant minimum distance - also in the pool and in showers - and the wearing of masks in closed rooms. Every visitor will also continue to be registered. Guests must comply with the hygiene rules after entering the outdoor pool (washing hands, disinfecting). Open-air pools have been allowed to open again since 20 May. Indoor swimming pools may resume operation after 30 May.
Sports with physical contact
Within the framework of the currently applicable contact restrictions (groups of up to ten people, relatives in a straight line or members of two households), contact sports have been permitted again in indoor areas since 15 June. Since 12 July, contact sports have been permitted outdoors and indoors with up to 30 people. Prerequisite: The traceability of the participants must be ensured. Competitions in mass and leisure sports are also permitted again indoors and in sports halls under certain conditions. The number of spectators may not exceed 300.
Concerts, theatre and cinema
Cinemas, theatres, opera houses and concert halls may reopen provided that a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between visitors is guaranteed and there is an access concept in place. A special hygiene and infection protection concept is required if more than a quarter of the regular audience capacity or more than 100 people are to watch. If there are fewer people, the hygiene requirements must still be met.
Trade fairs and trade congresses can take place again with protection concepts and limited numbers of visitors and participants.
Tattoo and piercing studios
After massage or cosmetic studios, tattoo and piercing studios may also reopen. The same hygiene requirements apply there, which include mouth-and-nose protection and - for treatments on the face - a special mask, protective goggles or shield for the service providers.
Picnics and barbecues
Picnics allowed again. Barbecues in the park are also allowed again. In addition to the people numbers that have been possible so far (family or two households), groups of up to ten people will probably still be allowed to meet in public spaces. Prerequisite: The traceability of the persons involved in the meeting is ensured.
Also laid down in the Corona Protection Ordinance: The regulation for - previously prohibited - choir rehearsals. Since 20 May, for example, several singers have been allowed to rehearse together in operas or concert halls. But: if they stand next to each other, the singers must keep a distance of three metres. If they stand in several rows, things get even more complicated: here, 6 metres distance in "ejection direction" is prescribed. In addition, "a room size of at least ten square metres per person must be provided.
Since 11 May, holiday flats and camping sites may also be used again for tourist purposes under certain conditions. Amusement parks, excursion boats, bicycle and boat rentals may open. Hotels have been allowed to open again since 18 May. "Employees who have direct contact with guests must wear a mouth-nose cover". Room cleaning "for shorter stays" should not be done every day but only after departure. Everything in the room - for example magazines or pens - must be cleaned at least after each change of guests.
Holiday-makers returning from abroad
Since 6 August, all returnees entering the country from Corona risk areas must in principle spend 14 days in domestic quarantine. This is only waived if a negative corona test result, which is not older than 48 hours, can be presented to the health authorities. The test at the time of entry and 72 hours afterwards is free of charge. The Robert Koch Institute determines the risk areas.
Visit to a nursing home
Residents of old people's homes and nursing homes have been allowed to visit again under strict conditions since 10 May. According to the plans of NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann, the visits could take place in separate areas or outside. Visitors wearing protective clothing may also enter the homes and visit bedridden persons in their rooms. Visits of up to two persons in each room are possible. Only one person is allowed directly into a resident's room. The duration of the visit is limited to a maximum of two hours per visit and day. In addition, the usual rules of hygiene apply, such as wearing masks and using disinfectants.
Since 20 June, NRW has relaxed the rules for visits to nursing homes and again expressly allowed physical contact such as hugs. Visits to cafés outside the facilities are also possible again. From July 1, residents will also be able to receive visitors in their rooms again.
Individual hospitals have been able to allow visits again since 11 May if they consider this appropriate in view of the incidence of infection and ensure a hygiene concept. In general, hospitals and other in-patient healthcare facilities have been allowed to admit visitors since 20 May.
There, less strict access rules apply than, for example, for open-air swimming pools: seven square metres - instead of ten - are used as a benchmark per customer. On the other hand, "due to aerosol exposure, all high-intensity endurance training (indoor cycling, HIIT and anaerobic threshold training) is prohibited“.
Hairdressers have been allowed to open their salons again since 4 May. However, strict Corona rules also apply when visiting the hairdresser. Among other things, distances of two metres must be maintained between the individual workplaces. In addition to haircuts, medical and cosmetic foot treatments have been permitted again since Monday, 4 May.
In the case of "face-related services and non-compliance with protective distances", employees must wear a special mouth-nose mask "supplemented by protective goggles or a face shield" according to the new regulation of Sunday, 17 May. "The wearing of disposable gloves is compulsory from the beginning of the service until after washing the hair.
Since 7 May, children have been allowed to play in the playgrounds again. Even according to the new version of the Corona Protection Ordinance, the accompanying persons in the playgrounds must keep a minimum distance of 1.5 metres from each other.
"Retail food shops, weekly markets, pick-up and delivery services and wholesale shops may, in addition to the existing legal provisions, open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays and public holidays", the TDM Regulation states. Pharmacies may generally open on Sundays and public holidays.
Worship services in NRW will continue to be possible in compliance with the distance rule or by including the contact details of all participants.
Driving schools may continue to provide their services after 31 August, subject to safety precautions and minimum distances. The minimum distance of 1.5 metres between persons cannot and need not be observed during practical driving lessons. During practical driving instruction and during the driving test, driving instructors, the examinee and the examiner must continue to wear masks - no other persons are allowed in the vehicle during the test, even in future.
Penalties and fines
Anyone who "wilfully or negligently" violates essential provisions of the Corona Protection Ordinance and organises an prohibited event or takes part in such events or assemblies can be punished with up to five years imprisonment. Administrative offences can be punished with fines of up to 25,000 Euro in accordance with the Infection Protection Act.
(Original text: ga/dpa / Translation: Mareike Graepel)