Recently, I was in the beautiful island of Bonaire in the Caribbean scuba diving at my leisure. The trip quickly turned hectic as I visited in Mar 2020 amidst the breakout of the coronavirus around the world.
I had to make a decision to either stay in paradise where there was no cases, or go home to Germany. Ultimately, the airlines told us we’d have to make a plan to stay until at least June because they had no idea when the flights would resume. Ultimately, we decided 10 weeks was just a bit too long to stay on a remote island where everything was closing down anyway (due to the virus and lack of tourists). In addition, my entire time in Bonaire I was reading about the German response to the outbreak and they seemed to be doing quite well. This made me feel more comfortable going home to Germany, than say my home country of the US.
As with the rest of the world, Germany has instituted some form of social distancing and lockdown. As of early April, the rules are
- maximum of two people per group unless you are family
- minimum distance of 1.5m from each other
- all restaurants/bars are closed for dine in but delivery and pick up are okay
- grocery stores remain open
- you are free to be outside
The rules in Germany are actually not as severe as many of the other countries in Europe and the world. Within Germany, each state has slightly different measures in place. Hesse, the province Frankfurt is located in has even more relaxed rules than other states. This of course is all subject to change at any point in time.
I’m still allowed to walk and bike outside at my leisure. I can even bike along the Main river and lay out on the grass assuming I am following the rules.
Before the lockdown started, I was traveling in the Caribbean scuba diving in Bonaire. When I finally came back after some delays, I was debating whether to test myself for coronavirus just because I was on multiple flights, airports, and just was moving around
In Germany, they have made it a priority to test, test, and more test. In fact, it might be one of the few places that you can get a test without showing severe symptoms. Ultimately, I decided not to go in for a test because Bonaire actually had no COVID cases at all, and I was not showing any symptoms. Nevertheless, the thought remained in my mind as I could be an asymptomatic carrier.
I’ve had some friends who have gone in for the test and the process is relatively straight forward from what I hear. You can go to a hospital (not inside) and wait outside for a number before they call you in and perform a test. Results will be communicated two days later. Hopefully, faster and more efficient tests will be developed in the future but Germany is definitely a country that has prioritized their testing procedures.
Grocery Stores are Open
Like anywhere, grocery stores are open for business like usual. In fact, Germany even floated the idea of opening grocery stores on Sundays which is absolute heresay! Absolutely nothing is open on Sundays when it comes to non-restaurant shops.
So for Germany to open grocery stores on Sundays really means there’s some serious stuff happening!
Unfortunately, they decided not to do so because apparently there wasn’t enough demand.
Markets are open
All of the markets in Frankfurt and the surrounding areas are open. Kleinmarkthalle is open with all the usual vendors inside but the crazy but amazing outdoor drinking marathons on Saturdays is absolutely not open. Outdoor markets like Konstablerwache and Schillermarkt are still open while the Bergerstrasse markt has been moved to the ice skating rink at Eisporthalle.
Restaurants and Bars and closed
Like anywhere else in the world at the moment, all restaurants and bars are closed. This is sad as I very much enjoyed all the great restaurants the city has to offer. Even more sad for the people that own and operate these restaurants. I don’t see restaurants and bars re-opening any time soon. If and when they do, it will be strict social distancing that I still can’t grasp how it would work. Will the waiters serve your food with a pole?
Delivery and take out are still available
Thankfully, in Frankfurt and the rest of Germany, take out and delivery are fully functioning.
All my favorite restaurants in Frankfurt are still offering take out which is an absolute life saver. I’ve been cooking much more but you just can’t do this every day.
Thankfully, I can still get my favorite Superbros pizza down the street with ease.
People are generally quite respectful of social distancing when waiting to pick up. Most restaurants have tape spacing out the 1.5m you need to be apart from each other.
Parks are open
All of Frankfurt’s wonderful parks are completely open, as long as you practice social distancing.
This is an absolute savior to be able to bike along the Main river, or lay out on the grass with a bottle of wine.
People are out and about in full force as the weather has been wonderful and quintessentially not German in recent weeks. I’ve been to the parks numerous times and it’s as if nothing is even happening at the moment. Life is completely normal and it’s like people don’t know there’s this pandemic happening.
Nevertheless, people (mostly) practice good social distancing.
Overall, life has been…quite normal
Life has undoubtedly changed. Everywhere in the world. Every country and city has a different policy and while Frankfurt is locked down, it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
It is certainly not as bad as what I’ve been reading in Italy where people just aren’t allowed to go out at all unless it’s for grocery shopping. I’ve talked to many people that only even leave their apartment once a week.
Life in Frankfurt goes on and while there is certainly less life outside especially with the amazing weather, you wouldn’t think we are in the middle of a Pandemic. People seemed to be not so worried about COVID-19. Whether that’s due to confidence or negligence I’m not sure.
Germany’s Healthcare system
Germany’s healthcare system is certainly one of the strongest in the world. They’ve been testing like crazy and their investments in the hospitals has really paid off in these times. Compared to many other countries like the US, Italy, France etc, there is still ample capacity at the hospitals in Germany. This includes ICUs and ventilators which are key in fighting the virus. Perhaps people in Germany know that if they were to get sick, they would have the best chance to fight it here.
I’m not sure this fully explains why the death rate in Germany is lower than other countries, or why people just aren’t so worried about it, but it is a start.
I don’t see anything going back to normal
I think the Coronavirus’s disruption to life is here to stay until a vaccine is found. There’s just no way we go back to normal life knowing that there is a virus that can kill us hanging around.
I think eventually Frankfurt will open up its retail shops so people can buy clothing and home goods. I can see this happening by May and perhaps with a requirement to wear masks inside.
We might have restaurants open in the coming months with very strict social distancing measures that I have yet to figure out. I don’t know how you can keep the distance at a restaurant when a waiter has to bring you the food?
Bars and large gatherings I reckon will be banned for the rest of the year. Germany is famous for their outdoor drinking scene and there’s just no way you can safely hold one of these events during the age of Coronavirus. Therefore, I see all festivals and markets closed for the rest of the year. Very sad considering the best part of the summer months is attending all of the incredibly fun and beautiful festivals.
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