No proof banning nightlife would stop Covid-19: Berlin court overturns restaurant curfew

There is no evidence that keeping restaurants shut at night would significantly slow down Covid-19, so Berlin’s curfew order infringes on business freedoms, a court in the German capital has ruled.

The Friday decision deals a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s response to the latest surge in coronavirus cases, under which all German federal states agreed earlier this week to enforce common social distancing guidelines.

The Berlin administrative court sided with the owners of 11 restaurants, which petitioned for an emergency injunction to overturn an order that forced them to remain closed between 11pm and 6am. The measure came into force last Saturday, putting Berlin under curfew for the first time in seven decades.

Berlin authorities failed to prove that the measure was necessary to slow down the spread of Covid-19, the ruling said. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), most new cases of the disease are being traced to meetings between families and friends, religious gatherings, meat-processing plants, hospitals, nursing homes and other sources, the court explained. So, the curfew constituted a disproportionate infringement of business freedom.

The court also rejected the idea that the curfew was necessary to enforce a ban on serving alcohol at night, which the restaurant owners didn’t challenge in their complaint. People should be presumed to be complying with the ban, it said.

The ruling can be appealed to a higher court.

Earlier this week, Germany’s 16 federal states agreed on a set of measures meant to curb the ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases. They include harsher restrictions on gatherings, stricter mandates for wearing facemasks and curfews. Chancellor Merkel said she was not satisfied with the new guidelines because she believed they were not harsh enough “to avert disaster.”

The Friday update from the RKI reported 7,334 new Covid-19 cases in Germany in 24 hours, which increased the total national tally to 348,557. The death toll has reached 9,734 after 24 more people succumbed to the infection.