Germans face fines of up to $ 5,000 for wearing face masks

People wear masks at the central station in Munich, Germany, on Monday.

In an interior design store on the main shopping street in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, all customers complied with the new regulations.

Store manager Carolin Hucke said the masks made her and her customers more calm. “I can say people are more comfortable,” said Hucke, wiping the baskets with disinfectant, and adding, “they keep their distance and are more sensitive to the situation, but they are also less stressed and watch out for others. ” “

But there is a patchwork of rules and sanctions across Germany on the use of masks. The fines for not guaranteeing the wearing of a face cover vary from € 15 ($ 16) to € 5,000, with rates varying according to the country’s 16 federated states. Some states do not impose fines.

When Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government announced relaxed regulations, it only recommended wearing face covers when returning to public spaces. “It is recommended to use masks on public transport and when shopping,” said Merkel on April 15.

As the restrictions were lifted, dozens of people flocked to the pedestrian areas of cities and towns across the country, eager for a slice of normality after weeks of near-foreclosure. And some states have been creative in interpreting the rules, allowing even larger shopping centers to open as long as individual stores inside do not exceed 800 square meters, or allowing larger stores to ” open the maximum authorized area while closing the rest.

This prompted Merkel to warn that Germany risked wasting the gains it had made by pushing back Covid-19. She said she fully supported the measures to relax the restrictions, “but their implementation worries me. In part, they seem to be very bold, perhaps too bold.”

Germany has a decentralized system, and the federal government cannot force states to lock or make masks mandatory. But states have all made separate laws making masks a requirement, although the details vary. In most states, people must cover their mouths and noses when using public transportation or when going to stores.

A man walks on an empty street in Berlin.

The type of masks themselves is also not specified. They can range from surgical masks to even a scarf covering the mouth and nose. The Germans call these “Alltagsmasken” or “everyday masks”.

The theory behind the use of the mask is that while they will do little to keep people from getting Covid-19, they will stop people from spreading the virus, and the more people who wear them, the more effective they will be, especially in places where the rules of social distancing are not always 100% respected.

Just as the rules for wearing a face cover vary in Germany, the penalties also apply in the event of non-wiping. The state of Berlin is the most forgiving, it has no fines and will even allow people to board buses and subways without masks. Bavaria, meanwhile, the region hardest hit by the pandemic, is the most severe with fines of € 150 and even up to € 5,000 for traders who do not ensure that their staff wear masks .

But with masks in short supply around the world, the German government is struggling to strengthen its inventory, not only for health professionals, but also for general use. The largest cargo plane in the world, the Antonov AN-225 – chartered by the German army – arrived at Leipzig airport on Monday with 10 million masks from China.

Two other flights are expected to deliver an additional 15 million protective masks in the coming days. “A sufficient number of protective masks is crucial for (the) additional lifting of restrictions on coronaviruses,” said German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, adding that the masks would now be distributed to the country’s 16 federal states , who will then decide which facilities will be caught.

The German police union has criticized the various regulations across the country. “It is not the job of the police to explain the differences in state rules,” said the head of the police union in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

But throughout Monday, the German media reported that people generally seemed to accept the measures. Hucke, the director of the interior design store, also said that things were going well. “I had a client who just forgot and immediately put a cloth over her face when she realized. I have had no problems so far,” she said.


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