Coronavirus (COVID-19): international policing responses - part 1 - during lockdown

This review (part 1) considers international policing approaches and responses to policing the lockdown, up to the 7 May 2020.


Main points

  • While all federal states have issues rules to limit social contact, these vary from State to State, and so do fines
  • More than 100 protesters were arrested on Saturday 25 April for a demonstration against the lockdown
  • In some German states, the police are monitoring compliance to the lockdown through the use of drone
  • Germany is due to unveil a contact-tracing app
  • Lockdown regulations have started to be eased, but people are still being urged to stay at home
  • There has been confusion over new rules making the wearing of face masks compulsory


All federal states have issued rules to limit social contact, which will remain in effect at least until 03 May 2020. Essential businesses remain open, and, according to the decision of 15 April, shops with an area of up to 800m2 may re-open, as may car dealers, bicycle shops and book shops, irrespective of their size. Hairdressers may begin preparing to re-open from 4 May. Other establishments such as restaurants, clubs, and bars remain closed. All large-scale events have been banned until at least 31 August 2020. The use of cloth masks is now mandatory on public transport and, in most regions, within shops. The rules vary among the 16 German states - Bavaria being the strictest, while in Berlin shoppers do not have to wear masks. Individuals are permitted to be outside with one other person who does not live in their household, and can leave home only for essential reasons and for exercise. Only people living in the same household may travel together in a car.[120]

Policing the lockdown

Policing in Germany is run at the state level, and all states have operated slightly differently when it comes to enforcing the rules. Generally, violations can be prosecuted, but fines vary according to the state.

It is possible to cross the land borders with Austria, France, Luxembourg, Denmark and Switzerland only at designated border crossing points, but travellers with no valid need for travel will not be permitted to enter/leave the country at the borders listed.[121]

Social tensions

Earlier in April, Germany's constitutional court ruled that citizens have the right to hold political protests as long as they adhere to social distancing rules.[122] In Berlin, more than 100 protesters were arrested on Saturday 25 April for a demonstration against the lockdown. The protesters handed out newspapers entitled 'Democratic Resistance', which said the new coronavirus is an attempt to seize power by spreading fear. The papers quoted 127 doctors from around the world who question the need for strict lockdowns.[123]


In some German states, the police are monitoring compliance to the lockdown through the use of drones, which are also used to issue health warnings via loudspeaker. In many German states, the police are using more traditional ways to monitor lockdown compliance, for example using vehicles with loudspeakers to patrol streets and point out the restrictions, and helicopters. Some states have said they would not be using drones, possibly due to privacy concerns.[124]

Germany is due to unveil a contact-tracing app, amongst concerns around privacy and data protection.[125] This comes after the Government launched an app to monitor vital signs from volunteers wearing smartwatches or fitness trackers - including pulse, temperature and sleep - to analyse whether people are symptomatic.[126]

Easing the lockdown

Some states have already reopened schools, but Angela Merkel decided to postpone a decision on when to fully restart schools, day-care centres and sports clubs until 6th May.[127] However, as the lockdown has been eased, the virus reproduction rate has started increasing again. People are still being asked to stay at home as much as possible.[128] As wearing masks when visiting shops and travelling on public transport has now been made compulsory in all German states, fines of between 25 and 10,000 euros can be imposed on those who fail to wear a mask, with rates differing widely across the country. But car drivers were warned not to wear coverings that completely disguise their faces or risk a 60 euros fine, so they can still be recognised by speed cameras and police surveillance.[129] Similar confusion has been raised by activists planning May Day protests, as the recent advice on face masks is at odds with German law, which makes it illegal to cover one's face while participating in a public gathering, such as a strike or a political demonstration, so as to prevent identification by the police.[130]

Germany is also planning to introduce a legal right to work from home after the pandemic.[131]



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