Everything that changes in May 2020 in Germany

Whether it's businesses reopening, wages rising in some fields and a new public holiday in Berlin, there's a lot changing in May 2020 - and not all of it coronavirus related.

Everything that changes in May 2020 in Germany
A clock in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

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.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

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.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Germany poised to reopen religious buildings, museums and playgrounds

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.

READ ALSO: Germany extends worldwide tourist 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. 

READ ALSO: State by state: When (and how) will Germany's schools reopen?

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.

READ ALSO: From visas to taxes: These German deadlines have been extended due to the coronavirus

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.

Non-coronavirus changes

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).

READ ALSO: What and when are Germany’s 2020 public holidays?

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.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

It’s back again: amid sinking temperatures, the incidence of Covid-19 has been slowly rising in Germany. But is this enough to merit worrying about the virus?

Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

More people donning face masks in supermarkets, friends cancelling plans last minute due to getting sick with Covid-19. We might have seen some of those familiar reminders recently that the coronavirus is still around, but could there really be a resurgence of the virus like we experienced during the pandemic years?

According to virologists, the answer seems to be ‘maybe’: since July, the number of people newly infected with Covid-19 has been slowly rising from a very low level.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nine people per 100,000 inhabitants became newly infected in Germany last week. A year ago, there were only around 270 reported cases.

Various Corona variants are currently on the loose in the country. According to the RKI,  the EG.5 (also called Eris) and XBB.1.16 lines were each detected in the week ending September 3rd with a share of just under 23 percent. 

The highly mutated variant BA.2.86 (Pirola), which is currently under observation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also arrived in the country this week, according to RKI. 

High number of unreported case

The RKI epidemiologists also warned about a high number of unreported cases since hardly any testing is done. They pointed out that almost half of all registered sewage treatment plants report an increasing viral load in wastewater tests.

The number of hospital admissions has also increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the occupation rate amid the pandemic. Last week it was two per 100,000 inhabitants. In the intensive care units, only 1.2 percent of all beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Still, a good three-quarters (76.4 percent) of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least twice and thus have basic immunity, reported RKI. 

Since Monday, doctors’ offices have been vaccinating with the adapted vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, available to anyone over 12 years old, with a vaccine for small children set to be released the following week and one for those between 5 and 11 to come out October 2nd.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has so far only recommended that people over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid jab this autumn in Germany?

“The pandemic is over, the virus remains,” he said. “We cannot predict the course of coming waves of corona, but it is clear that older people and people with pre-existing conditions remain at higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19”

The RKI also recommended that people with a cold voluntarily wear a mask. Anyone exhibiting cough, cold, sore throat or other symptoms of a respiratory illness should voluntarily stay at home for three to five days and take regular corona self-tests. 

However, further measures such as contact restrictions are not necessary, he said.

One of many diseases

As of this autumn, Covid-19 could be one of many respiratory diseases. As with influenza, there are no longer absolute infection figures for coronavirus.

Saarbrücken pharmacist Thorsten Lehr told German broadcaster ZDF that self-protection through vaccinations, wearing a mask and getting tested when symptoms appear are prerequisites for surviving the Covid autumn well. 

Only a new, more aggressive mutation could completely turn the game around, he added.

On April 7th of this year, Germany removed the last of its over two-year long coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing in some public places.

READ ALSO: German doctors recommend Covid-19 self-tests amid new variant