By Fred Pleitgen and Nadine Schmidt | CNN
Public life changed significantly for most Germans on Monday when the wearing of masks became compulsory in many public spaces across the country.
In a furniture store on Potsdam’s main shopping street just outside Berlin, all customers adhered to the new regulations.
Store manager Carolin Hucke said the masks calmed both her and her customers. “I notice that people are feeling more comfortable,” says Hucke, wiping shopping baskets with disinfectant, and adds, “They keep their distance and are more sensitive to the situation, but they are also less stressed and just take care of each other.” . “
Since last week, Germany has relaxed many restrictions on public life that should stop the spread of the coronavirus. Shops with a size of no more than 800 square meters were allowed to reopen. Likewise, car dealers and bike shops, regardless of their size.
But there is a patchwork of rules and penalties for the use of masks across Germany. Fines for failing to wear face coverings range from â‚¬ 15 ($ 16) to â‚¬ 5,000 (about $ 5,400), with rates varying across 16 states. Some states do not impose fines.
When the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the relaxation of the regulations, they only recommended wearing face coverings when re-entering the public space. “It is recommended to wear masks in public transport and when shopping,” said Merkel on April 15.
When the restrictions were lifted, scores of people flocked to the pedestrian zones in cities and towns across the country looking for a piece of normalcy after weeks of lockdown. And some states got creative in interpreting the rules and let larger shopping centers open as long as the individual stores inside did not exceed 800 square meters, or let larger stores open the maximum permitted area and cordon off the rest.
This prompted Merkel to warn that Germany is risking wasting the profits it made in fighting Covid-19. She said she fully supports the measures to ease the restrictions, â€œbut I am concerned about their implementation. Sometimes they seem very bold, maybe too bold. “
Germany has a decentralized system, and the federal government cannot force federal states to block or make it mandatory to wear a mask. But states have all separately enacted laws that make masks compulsory, even if the details vary. Most states require people to cover their mouths and noses when using public transit or entering stores.
The type of masks themselves is also not specified. They can range from surgical masks to a scarf that covers your mouth and nose. The Germans call these “everyday masks” or “everyday masks”.
The theory behind using masks is that while they will do little to prevent people from getting Covid-19, they will stop them from transmitting the virus and the more people wear them, the more effective they are , especially in places where social distancing occurs, rules cannot always be 100% respected.
As different as the rules for wearing face coverings are in Germany, so are the penalties for not wearing them. The state of Berlin is the mildest, there are no fines and will even let people get on buses and subways without a mask. Bavaria, the region hardest hit by the pandemic, is the strictest with fines of 150 euros and even up to 5,000 euros for shopkeepers who do not make sure that their employees are wearing masks.
But since masks are in short supply worldwide, the German government is making an effort to top up its inventory, not only for healthcare professionals but also for general use. The largest cargo plane in the world, the Antonov AN-225 chartered by the German military, arrived at Leipzig Airport on Monday with a delivery of 10 million masks from China.
Two more flights are expected to deliver another 15 million protective masks in the coming days. “A sufficient number of protective masks is crucial for (the) further lifting of the coronavirus restrictions,” said Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, adding that the masks will now be distributed to the 16 federal states of the country, which will then decide which facilities will be preserved She.
The police union of Germany criticized the nationwide different regulations. “It cannot be the task of the police to clarify the differences in the regulations of the federal states,” said the head of the police union in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
But throughout Monday, German media reported that people in general seemed to accept the measures. Hucke, head of the interior design business, also said everything was going well. â€œI had a customer who just forgot and put a towel over her face as soon as she noticed. So far I haven’t had any problems, â€she says.