Over the last couple of months in Germany, we've grown accustomed to seeing big societal shifts every week – whether coronavirus restrictions getting tightened or loosened, or extra financial help coming through for those most affected.
We break down some of the top coronavirus measures that have already been announced for May, followed by 'non-corona' changes – such as wage increases and a new public holiday on May 8th – which had already been planned long before the days when “social distancing” was a household term.
What's changing due to the coronavirus?
Hair salons can open again
Feeling in need of a good trim on that overgrown fringe? Hair salons around Germany can open again on May 4th – as long as they observe strict safety precautions. For example, both hairdressers and customers must wear mouth and nose coverings.
As this involves additional time and expense for protective clothing, prices are likely to rise.
A closed hair salon in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA
Relaxation of other rules
Germany-wide social distancing measures are to be extended until May 10th, putting a ban on more than two people who aren’t part of the same family or household being outside together at the same time.
However, throughout Germany other measures are being relaxed at different timelines, with museums, botanical gardens, zoos and other public institutions poised to reopen soon.
Here's a timeline of what we already know is reopening, state by state.
Restaurants and hotels want to resume operations between the middle and end of May, but this has not yet been decided.
For the time being, however, there will be no relaxation for travel outside Germany. The Foreign Office has extended the worldwide travel warning until mid-June.
Students head back to the classroom
Starting at the beginning of May, some students will be able to go back to school. Regular classes will start gradually, so that all grades don’t return at once. Most of the states plan to partially open schools on May 4th.
At the moment, Kitas (day care centres) are also closed, although federal and state governments have presented a four-step plan which lays out how to “cautiously” reopen them. For example, only emergency care to parents who most need it will be included in the first part.
A high school student in North Rhine-Westphalia was ready to head back to school with a face mask. Photo: DPA
Deutsche Bahn divvies out vouchers
Those who had planned – but no longer want to take – a train journey over the coming long weekend can exchange their ticket for a voucher.
This applies to long-distance tickets from Deutsche Bahn (DB) with a travel date up until May 4th, which were purchased up to March 13th. The vouchers are available online and are valid for three years.
For long-distance journeys taking place after May 4th, customers can now use their tickets flexibly until October 31st – provided they were purchased before March 13th. Previously, DB accepted these tickets just until June 30th. This regulation also applies to economy and super saver tickets.
Help for students
Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) wants to help students through the corona crisis with emergency loans. Starting May 8th, students can apply for an initially interest-free loan of up to €650 per month from the state development bank KfW.
Both current KfW student loans and new applications will remain interest-free for domestic students until the end of March next year. Foreign students can obtain the loan from July onwards. Find out more and how to apply here.
A less taxing process
Anyone who has their tax return processed by a wage tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein) or tax consultant now has a longer time: the tax offices are now retrospectively offering an extension from February 29th to May 31st for 2018 taxes – without stating or checking reasons.
The regular deadline for submitting the 2018 income tax return would have been February 29th, 2020. If late surcharges had already been applied, these will be returned.
Good news for Kurzarbeiter
For anyone officially placed on shorter working hours (a system known as Kurzarbeit) who earns a little extra on the side, the regulations on additional income opportunities will be relaxed from May 1st until the end of 2020.
Up until now, anyone who took up a new part-time job during short-time work had this additional income credited in full against the short-time allowance.
However, in the wake of the Corona crisis, the German government is now temporarily waiving this regulation. With immediate effect, short-time workers have the opportunity to earn additional money without it affecting the allowance.
Cheaper parcel prices
Sending parcels is becoming cheaper again. After the parcel service DHL had increased its prices in January, the Federal Network Agency made a successful complaint that the prices had gone up too high.
Now, for example, a medium-sized parcel (up to two kilograms) costs €4.50 instead of €4.79. The shipping of a 10-kilo parcel drops by a whole euro to €9.49.
Ban on menthol cigarettes
Starting on May 21st, menthol cigarettes may no longer be sold in Germany. According to a new EU-wide tobacco product directive, tobacco-products are not allowed to mask the taste of tobacco.
Wage raise in Germany’s care sector
From May 1st onward, minimum wages in nursing care for the elderly and outpatients will be introduced throughout the industry for the first time. The minimum wages for nursing assistants will be increasing in four stages up until April 1st, 2022 to €12.55 per hour, equalizing the pay in both east and west Germany.
A nurse in Essen preparing a coronavirus test on January 31st. Photo: DPA
“Liberation Day”: Berlin receives an extra public holiday
In Berlin, “Tag der Befreiung” will be celebrated as a day off from work for the first time. On May 8th, the 75 anniversary of the liberation from National Socialism and the end of the Second World War is being commemorated.
In other European countries such as France, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, “Liberation Day” is already a public holiday.
In addition, Germany has two public holidays in May, both which are celebrated Germany-wide:
-Labour Day on May 1st (Friday).
-Ascension Day on May 21st (Thursday).
Increase of the minimum wage for painters, varnishers and stonemasons
There will also be a rise in wages in the craft traded. Painters and varnishers who have not yet been trained will receive at least €11.10 per hour from May 1st instead of €10.85 per hour before. Those with training will receive a minimum wage of €13.50.
Stonemasons and sculptors can also look forward to an increase in the minimum wage. Instead of the previous €11.85, they will now receive €12.20 per hour.
Stricter road regulations
Since April 28th, much stricter rules for both drivers and cyclists have been in force. For example, driving licences will be confiscated for a month if the speed limit is exceeded by 21 kilometres per hour within cities.