15 April 2020

Alone Together: Coronavirus Around the World (Germany)

Intro Copy

The world has never been so united, even if that uniting force is isolation. This post is part of a series created by CultureGrams editors that features first-hand accounts of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals in different countries.  Today's installment is written by Janina, a woman who lives in Hamburg, Germany. My Name is Janina, I’m a mother of two sons (3 and 6 years old) living in Hamburg, Germany. During the first week of March, I was on a skiing holiday in Austria with friends. At that time, Coronavirus had only spread to Italy and we thought we would be safe during our trip. But one person in our group got infected by COVID-19. Luckily, he is well again and hopefully immune now. He had symptoms three days after our return and tested positive. As soon as he received his result our whole skiing group was forced to be in quarantine by law for 14 days since we were the last to have contact with him. We were not allowed to leave home or have friends or family visiting for 14 days. The law states that everyone who has been in contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes and has had face-to-face contact has to be in quarantine. If you don’t follow the rules you can be fined. Since my boys had picked us up from the station and sat face-to-face with the infected person, they were in quarantine as well. Fortunately, my husband was still allowed to go outside, so he went to work and took care of groceries, etc. My sons and I haven’t shown any symptoms, so we think we haven’t had COVID-19, but we didn’t get tested. While we were in quarantine the general restrictions in Germany increased. So we never really got out of quarantine. Now the following rules apply for everyone:
  • Stay home!
  • You are allowed to go:
    • to work (but must people I know work from home now)
    • out for a walk / exercise
    • shopping for basic needs
  • While outside you need to keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters (4 feet, 11 inches) from other people. Even in grocery stores you need to keep that distance. Security outside the stores only allows a few people to go inside. In the stores they have marks on the floor to keep the distance while queuing.
  • No one is allowed to socialize with people that don’t live in the same household.
  • The following facilities are closed:
    • Shops, except for grocery stores, pharmacies, bakeries, and drug stores
    • Schools, kindergarten, universities
    • Sports grounds, swimming pools, and playgrounds
    • Restaurants (they are only allowed to offer take out)
  • You are not allowed to travel (only business trips), and no foreigner is allowed to come to Germany except if they work in Germany regularly.
I think the government decided against a total lock down because they were afraid of increasing violence when families are forced to stay home all the time. Therefore, everyone is allowed to go outside from time to time. The goal of the restrictions is to decrease the number of infections per day so that the healthcare system will not be overwhelmed and has time to prepare. Results of restrictions can only be seen after the two-week incubation period. So, everyone needs to be patient. Current infection rates give hope. For me the restrictions are tough. While having two kids at home I have to work from home and my husband still goes to work every day. I’m a key account manager and technically I can do my job from home. The difficulty is to entertain the kids while working. My kids have appeared in some video conferences, but colleagues and customers are very understanding. I take longer lunch breaks now, since I have to cook lunch for my family. And I shift some of my work to the evening. On the one hand it is difficult, but on the other hand I enjoy spending so much time with my kids. We have established new routines and, for example, do an online gymnastics class with the whole family. My older son has an English class once a week, which is now done via video conference. We are blessed to have a house with a garden, so we have enough space to play. But I miss my friends and larger family and hope the restrictions can be decreased soon.