Outdoor dining and swimming pools: How Berlin plans to reopen in May

In light of low coronavirus figures, Berlin is set to take several opening steps starting Wednesday May 19th. We break down what they are, and which rules still apply.

Outdoor dining and swimming pools: How Berlin plans to reopen in May
Chairs stacked outside of a closed restaurant in Berlin-Mitte on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The Berlin Senate’s plan to reopen dining and other aspects of public life, first announced last week, comes as Covid-19 cases continue to fall in Berlin.

As of Monday May 17th, Berlin reported a 7-day incidence of 68.6 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). For five days the number has been below the desired 7-day incidence of 100.

The first rule relaxations are set to kick in as of Wednesday May 19th. Furthermore, as of Friday May 21st, dining guests will be allowed to sit and order at outdoor areas of restaurants, cafes and bars as long as they show a negative coronavirus test. 

However, they will be exempt from the requirement if they can show proof that they have been fully vaccinated, or recovered from a Covid-19 infection. 

Further opening steps in Berlin

Kitas (daycare centres) opened again on Monday for all families, regardless of whether parents work in a ‘system relevant’ job, as was required before for emergency care.

The following openings are additionally set to take place on Wednesday.

Shopping at stores beyond those for everyday needs (for examples, supermarkets and pharmacies) will no longer require an appointment, according to the Senate Commerce Department, but social distancing requirements remain.

Stores up to 800 square metres would then be allowed one customer per 10 square metres of store space, with larger stores subject to the 20-square-metre-per-customer rule.

READ ALSO: Berlin plans restaurants openings as Covid cases fall


Outdoor sports will also be allowed again – with restrictions. 

For example, children up to the age of 14 are to be allowed to play sports again in groups of up to 20 people. People over the age of 14 are also to be allowed to play sports again in a group of up to 10 people from May 21st. 

Beach and open-air swimming pools are also to be allowed to reopen as long as they have hygiene plans in place.”We will announce shortly what the rules and pools will be,” wrote the Berliner Bäderbetriebe (Berlin’s swimming pool operator).

If new infection figures continue to stay low, Berlin will be set to begin its next opening steps on June 4th, reported the Tagesspiegel on Monday. These include reopening fitness studios and dance studios, as long as visitors book an appointment in advance and show a negative test.

Weekly markets
Weekly markets may be visited without a negative coronavirus test.

Cultural venues
Cinemas, theaters, opera houses, concert halls and cultural event venues will be allowed to open outdoors for visitors, with a maximum of 250 people. A negative coronavirus test will be required if there if no fixed seating.


City tours and boat excursions for tourist purposes with appointment booking and negative testing should also be possible again in the capital.

Berlin is also set to reopen hotels and guest houses again on June 4th if the 7-day incidence continues to stay below 100.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller warned against carelessness in view of the falling incidence figures. “It would really be a bad situation if, through imprudent behavior, we very quickly get back into a situation where incidences are rising,” he said. 

A 7-day incidence of around 100 is a “crisis number,” he said. “All is well only at ten or even below,” Müller said.

Opening steps nationwide

Since the beginning of November, all of Germany has been in a state of shutdown, which has seen restaurants and cafes close their doors except for takeout and delivery, and tourism infrastructure – such as hotels and guesthouses – close except for business or essential travellers.

A few regional opening projects – such as in the state of Saarland – allowed for outdoor dining around the Easter holidays, but under the nationwide ’emergency brake’ measures, most were forced to close after infection numbers crept up again in the third Covid wave.

Now more states are continuing to open up again. Germany’s northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein completely reopened for tourism on Monday, and also allowed both the inside and outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes to open for the public.

READ ALSO: Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

The opening steps tie in with Whitsun, known as Pfingsten in German, which falls on Monday May 24th this year, and is a national public holiday. 

Last week Bavaria also announced plans to not only open outdoor dining, but also tourism infrastructure, over the long weekend. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria plans to open for tourists on May 21st

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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