Local news translated – Feb. 15, 2023

Graphic by U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

Host Nation Update, Feb. 15, 2023

Further COVID protection requirements to end March 1 in Germany

Further nationwide COVID protection requirements are to expire early on March 1, according to plans by the federal and state governments. Health ministers agreed Tuesday to an earlier end to mask and testing requirements for workers and residents in health care and long-term care facilities, which were actually set to expire April 7. This was announced by the Federal Ministry of Health. For visits to doctors’ offices, clinics and nursing homes, however, masks will still be required.  Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said that, on balance, the infection situation has been stable for weeks. The hospitals could take good care of COVID patients. Only when visiting medical facilities, it is still necessary to be careful. Those who visit patients or nursing home residents and attend medical appointments must continue to wear masks, he said. “That should be worth in order to protect vulnerable groups.” Lauterbach stressed, “The pandemic is not over yet. But the pandemic has lost its terror. The virus is controllable in everyday life. And we are drawing conclusions from this.” In preparation for a potentially more critical pandemic situation during winter, several nationwide COVID provisions had been written into the Infection Protection Act. Most recently, at the beginning of February, the obligation to wear a mask on long-distance trains and buses had already been suspended ahead of schedule, as well as in public transportation the requirements do not apply any longer. The federal states had also gradually phased out the obligation to isolate people infected with COVID. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feb 14, 2023)


All S-Bahn lines affected – Delays and cancellations after malfunction of track switch system

The S-Bahn journey became a test of patience for many commuters this morning. A switch malfunction, which was fixed around 7:45 a.m., slowed down the S-Bahn traffic. As there may still be some deviations from the timetable, travelers should check their travel connections before starting their journey.

Due to a switch malfunction between Stuttgart main station and Bad Cannstatt, there was a traffic jam between Vaihingen and the main station in the morning. On all S-Bahn lines (S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S60) there were therefore delays and train cancellations in both directions, as could be read on the Twitter account of the S-Bahn Stuttgart. The S1 and S2 lines only ran every 30 min. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feb 15)


Strike at Stuttgart Airport on Friday

Tens of thousands of airline passengers in Germany will have to brace themselves for cancellations and delays on Friday. The trade union Verdi announced in the night to Wednesday, then the airports in Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Dortmund, Hanover and Bremen all day to paralyze – and thus extends the wage dispute in the public service at airports. The employees of the operating companies are often paid according to the collective agreements of the municipalities.  The warning strike is scheduled to begin early Friday morning and end Saturday night.

With the now continued warning strikes, employees want to lend weight to their demands in the ongoing collective bargaining dispute of the federal and municipal public service. Until the second round of collective bargaining on February 22 and 23, further warning strikes have been announced in Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, among other places. According to the union, the strike is expected to have a major impact, especially on domestic air traffic in Germany – from delays and cancellations to the partial shutdown of air traffic.  The CEO of the German Airports Association (ADV), Ralph Beisel, sharply criticized the announced warning strike. A few days before the second round of collective bargaining, Verdi is exposing German air traffic to unprecedented escalation, he said. If seven of the largest ten German airports were to go on strike for the entire day on Friday, this would no longer have anything to do with a warning strike, he said. “In an unreasonable manner, an entire country is to be cut off from international air traffic.” The victims would be hundreds of thousands of passengers, both private and business travelers, as well as parts of the air freight and goods logistics sectors.  Air traffic is extremely susceptible to strikes because of the fragmented service providers, as many small, security-related groups are powerful enough to strike to paralyze operations. Basically, all it takes is a strike by the airport fire department to shut down the entire operation. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feb 15)


Carnival/Fasching – What kind of costumes/weapons/symbols are not authorized

If you want to dress up like a pirate for example, it should be no problem. However, it only becomes problematic if you carry a fake weapon that looks too real. When choosing your carnival costume, you need to pay attention to three things in particular:

  1. Dummy weapons must not look real.
  2. Uniforms must not look real
  3. Do not use any forbidden symbols

Costumes like pirate, policeman, soldier, cowboy or knight often include weapons among their accessories. Basically, dummies of firearms, swords & Co are allowed. But if the weapons look real for the purpose of deception, they may be so-called apparent weapons. This also includes firearms that have been rendered unusable and have the appearance of firearms.

The German Weapons Act states in Annex 1 to Section 1(4): “Excluded are such items that are recognizably intended by their overall appearance to be used for gambling or customary events […] Recognizably intended by their overall appearance to be used for gambling are, in particular, items whose size exceeds or falls short of that of a corresponding firearm by 50 percent, contain neon-colored materials, or have no markings of firearms.”  So make sure the weapons that are part of your costume are easily identifiable as fake. Violation of the Weapons Act is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 euros.  Uniforms are usually very popular at carnival. Whether captain, pilot or policeman – many find these costumes funny and cool.

As with weapons, the same applies to uniforms: If the costumes are clearly recognizable as not real, there is no problem.  Section 132a of the Criminal Code (StGB) states, “Whoever illegally wears domestic or foreign uniforms, official dress or official insignia shall be punished by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine.” Paragraph 2 of the law states that this also applies to uniforms that look “too real”. Incidentally, this also applies to official dress of churches and other religious societies under public law. If you like to dress up as a policeman or even a judge or priest, you should make sure that the costume is recognizable as such – otherwise it may be considered a “prohibited costume”. Numerous symbols from the Nazi era as well as signs of other right-wing extremist associations are forbidden by law in Germany and thus may not be used in costumes – even if it is clearly recognizable as fake.

Prohibited costumes are therefore all those that show a swastika, for example, no matter in which direction it is turned. It is also prohibited to use them with curved lines or as a negative. Also forbidden is, for example, the “(double) siegrune”, the sign of the SS. You should also not use the Celtic cross in your costumes, as it is considered punishable by law.  You should also avoid codes and symbols that stand for the right-wing scene and carry a clear political message. These include, for example:

  • 88 (symbolic for “Heil Hitler”, as H is the 8th letter in the alphabet).
  • WP/ White Power (“White supremacy”)
  • Black Sun (twelve-armed swastika)
  • Reich War Flag (various forms of representation)
  • SGH/ Sieg Heil (part of the Hitler salute)
  • B&H / Blood & Honour / Blut und Ehre (slogan of the Hitler Youth) (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feb 15)