What you need to know about the 15km zone

A Tuesday resolution would allow the Berlin state government to limit travel but the law will only go into effect if the seven-day incidence exceeds 200.

Avoiding unnecessary trips and contacts is part of my lifestyle.
Avoiding unnecessary trips and contacts is part of my lifestyle.dpa

Berlin-Politicians on Tuesday passed the legal framework to restrict the movement of residents in the capital city should the Covid-19 incidence rate cross the 200 threshold. Berliners would be free to move within the city but prohibited from crossing a 15km radius around Berlin without a significant reason. Similar limits are already in effect in parts of neighbouring Brandenburg. 

When would the 15k rule be used?

The text of the ordinance will be published on Friday and could become effective as early as Saturday, according to government spokeswoman Melanie Reinsch.

Why and when would restrictions actually apply?

The number of new corona infections is increasing dramatically. The seven-day incidence figure in the city is currently at a very critical 199.9 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within one week. The key, however, is when that value rises above 200 that Berliners are not allowed go further than 15km beyond city limits, said Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz. "Currently, however, that is not the case," he said.

When will these restrictions be lifted?

When the incidence threshold for Berlin drops below the 200 mark for a week, Kollatz said.

Will the 15km rule apply separately to each district?

No. Some districts have already exceeded the seven-day incidence threshold of 200 but for the purpose of the law, Berlin will be viewed as a whole for the regulation: Spandau, with a value of 275, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf (217), Treptow-Köpenick (232), Pankow (228) and Tempelhof-Schöneberg (215) passed the threshold on Tuesday. The average incidence for the capital must exceed the 200 mark before Berliners, regardless of which district they reside in, will have their movement restricted.

Where would Berliners then be allowed to travel?

Measured from the northern city limits, the 15km rule would allow travel as far as the region around Wandlitz, to the east as far as Petershagen/Eggersdorf, and to the south to Bestensee and Motzen. West of Berlin, the radius extends to Groß Kreutz in Havelland or to Lake Schwielow. Potsdam would not be off-limits to Berliners and they could also move unrestricted within Berlin. However, the limit does not apply to residents moving about with a valid reason, according to Kollatz.

What are valid reasons?

Travelling to and from work. Hospital and doctor's visits. Travelling to see authorities (court dates). Caring for relatives. Trips to weekend homes more than 15km away is also allowed. Shopping trips, however, are not a valid reason.

Can I travel by plane?

That's unclear, Kollatz said, and consultations on this issue continue. The federal government is expected to pass new legislation specific to air travel. He said the 15km could "lead to a travel ban."

Who will enforce the 15km ban?

It will be public order offices (Ordnungsamt) and the police, who are already responsible for enforcing the current corona-related restrictions in public. Violators can face fines of up to €500. Police in Brandenburg have already announced strict checks on whether Berliners are complying with the 15km rule using random searches. If no valid reason can be voiced for why the suspects are where they are, they will be fined and ordered to return to their homes. Conversely, Brandenburg residents who come from areas where the incidence value is above 200 and who are not allowed to travel further than 15km outside their city or district could be checked in Berlin. Special autobahn checkpoints are also conceivable, politicians said. The GdP police union prefers people to rely on common sense since broad checks would be impossible. "Nevertheless, however, anyone who violates the guidelines should be aware that they can be stopped and, when in doubt, asked to pay up," says GdP regional head Norbert Cioma.

Have the restrictions so far been effective?

According to Berlin interior minister Andreas Geisel (SPD), the current corona restrictions have been not nearly as effective as they were during the start of the pandemic last spring, with many people still out and about in the city over the weekend and in the days before. "This leads to the fact that corona still continues to spread strongly," Geisel said. Since March 2020, a total of 10,417 administrative offenses against infection protection laws have been detected in Berlin – most due to too little distance or too much contact.