Major cities in Germany including the capital Berlin are improving their alcohol policies, specifically time-based restrictions on alcohol sales as coronavirus infections have started to accelerate rapidly across the country, often in hotspots where alcohol is involved.

The rate of infection in Germany has exceeded 50 per 100,000 for the seventh consecutive day. This means that at least 50 new daily infections per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded. In major cities the rate is even higher. For example in Berlin infections have shot up to an alarming rate of 400 new cases per day.

In discussions held on October 9 with mayors of the 11 largest cities in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated for the implementation of time-based sales restrictions on alcohol to help contain the spread of the virus.

Movendi International has previously reported, that Chancellor Merkel and the Federal Government of Germany had discussions with the 16 German state governments on implementing a package of new measures to control the spread of the virus including time-based alcohol sales regulations.

Now, the discussions with Mayors have resulted in an agreement to institute time-based alcohol sales limits effective from October 10 in several major cities across Germany. Alcohol outlets in the on-trade sector will have to close for specific time periods. For instance:

  • In Berlin alcohol sales in bars, pubs and restaurants are prohibited between 11:00 PM to 6:00 AM.
  • In Frankfurt and Cologne alcohol sales cannot take place during 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM.

The alcohol availability regulations will be in place at least until October 31. Alcohol sales in off-trade outlets such as petrol stations are also banned.

The alcohol industry has aggressively opposed the new alcohol policy rules threatening legal action. They have claimed that the improving of alcohol availability policies would fuel the illegal market.

Instead of bowing to alcohol industry lobbying against public health, physical distancing measures complement the alcohol policy solutions, in order to prevent coronavirus hotspots due to alcohol consumption. For example, between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM outdoor gatherings are limited to 5 people. During day time the limit is 50. For indoor gatherings the limit is 10.

Addressing alcohol availability helps fight COVID-19

Reducing the wide and easy availability of alcohol has been found to help contain the spread of coronavirus. This is because alcohol use is associated with congregations and events where protective health guidelines such as mask use and physical distancing are being ignored. People gathering in large groups, ignoring health guidelines, to consume alcohol leads to accelerated spread of the virus.

One recent study found that among young adults who used alcohol, adherence to public policies to contain the pandemic such as stay-at-home orders, decreased over time and was related to alcohol use events.

Dirk Behrendt, responsible for Berlin’s justice system, echoed this view that alcohol use reduced adherence to COVID-19 protective measures.

Apart from dissipating crowded gatherings there are other important reasons for addressing easy and wide availability of alcohol during the current public health crisis. As the World Health Organization has advised, these include:

  • Alcohol increases the risk of infection and risk of more severe COVID-19 disease progression,
  • Alcohol weakens the immune system, and
  • Alcohol-related injury, disease and violence increase the burden on healthcare and emergency services which are already near or over capacity.


Der Spiegel: “If this is the future then good night

Euro News: “Berlin bar shutdown: ‘No time to party’ says mayor amid rising coronavirus cases