Berlin - No, this is not an April Fool's joke. 

Berlin Thursday sharpened its anti-corona legislation to keep more small children at home and limit the number of people who can congregate in public. 

Beginning 2 April, people may only go outside either alone or with one other person between 9pm and 5am. During the day, the previous rule limiting groups to a maximum of five people from two households will remain in place. Children under 14 are exempt from both regulations.

Regulations limiting meetings inside to five people from two households also remain in force.

A state-federal battleground

Beginning 6 April, the rules will be even more restrictive. During the day, only members of a household plus one other person will be allowed to meet (though children under 14 are again exempt) and no one is allowed to vist anyone between 9pm and 5am, according to the legislation. 

In addition to the contact restrictions, daycares will once again close beginning 8 April. As in the past, essential workers and single-parent households will qualify for emergency childcare. 

The tightened measures follow a week of tug-of-war between Chancellor Angela Merkel and a handful of state governments, including Berlin's, as the third corona wave picks up steam. Chancellor Merkel had hoped to agree more strict corona measures during a meeting early last week but was rebuffed by the heads of Germany's 16 states. She was even forced to retract and apologise for an attempt to make 1 April a day of rest.

She went on the popular Anne Will talk show last week to warn the state politicians that she would wrest control of corona regulations from them if they didn't follow suit. 

Many have forgotten what we are currently dealing with.

Norbert Cioma

The warning appears to have worked with Berlin mayor Michael Müller, who also doubles as head of the state of Berlin, passing Thursday's legislation. However, he is also attempting to circumvent Chancellor Merkel's desire for a more stringent lockdown by keeping non-essential businesses open, as long as shoppers have a current-day test and wear FFP2 masks. The same goes for people seeking personal care services like hair and nail salons.

"Müller and friends have preferred to squabble for days rather than decisively slowing the virus and protecting Berliners," said Kai Wegner, a CDU candidate in September's election. "Now, shortly before Easter, we suddenly have restrictions." 

While discussing the new law, Müller pointed to Berlin's incidence numbers, which have stagnated just below 150. He said the increasing number of corona patients in intensive care was alarming and said doctors are reporting that the patients are often younger than in previous waves. 

Maybe unconstitutional

The city's government didn't consider schools in Thursday's session because the Easter break will run through 9 April. The government next week will likely revisit the plans for schools, which re-opened at least partially last month. 

"The last few days have made it clear once again that while most people continue to abide by the rules, many have forgotten what we are currently dealing with. We appeal to people to be considerate of each other even over the Easter holidays," Norbert Cioma, regional chairman of the German police union, said. He expressed doubt that the contact restrictions would be upheld by courts as constitutional. 

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