EXPLAINED: The ultimate A-Z guide of coronavirus terms in German

The coronavirus brought many new and existing words into the German vocabulary. Here's a look through the ABCs of the pandemic – from Autokinos to Zoom.

EXPLAINED: The ultimate A-Z guide of coronavirus terms in German
How did you spend lockdown? Swiss acrobat Freddy Nock stands after the "Glacier 3000" Air show, an event marking the reopening of the Alpine facilities on June 23, 2020 above Les Diablerets. Photo: FA

In the last 100 days new terms such as Coviditioten (Covid idiots), Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien (opening discussion orgies) and Superspreaders have emerged in the German language.

“Corona” can furthermore be inserted into almost every word, from corona hairstyle, corona kilos to corona parties. While some may have already guessed in January that 2020 would be a completely different year because of the Corona crisis, it only became clear for many of us on March 16th, when most federal states closed schools and day-care centres.

READ ALSO: 11 German words and phrases we've learned during the coronavirus outbreak

Sports enthusiasts may not have realised until March 17th, when the European Football Championship was postponed to 2021. 

The last noticed on March 23th, when the contact ban came into force across the country.

The pandemic time, the likes of which have previously only been seen in disaster movies, has now been with us for three months. So, now it’s time for an A to Z lexicon for this new way of life – excluding conspiracy theorist Attila Hildmann, Bill Gates, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and leading virologists Christian Drosten and Alexander Kekulé.

for Autokino (drive-in cinema): This symbol of the 1950s considered to be long dead is experiencing a sudden Renaissance thanks to social distancing, and not just for movies but for any presentation that can be watched by car, from the Heino concert to Holy Mass. There are also drive-in at the bakeries and circuses.

A drive-through cinema in Chemnitz, Saxony. Photo: DPA

for Bergamo: The pretty little town near Milan which became a symbol for the horror of the coronavirus crisis in Italy. It became the epitome of an out-of-control epidemic with huge numbers of deaths and shocking pictures of coffins.

for Covidioten (Covid idiots): A word for those protesting against the corona measures. Media scientist Bernhard Pörksen says that ever since the refugee crisis there has been “a communicative climate change, an unhealthy overheating of debates”

for Drogeriemärkte (drug stores): They remained open throughout the pandemic and therefore became staples and places of refuge – and a place to stockpile toilet paper and disinfectants. Some have already spoken of DM and Rossmann as the new in-places – sometimes even with bouncers on the doors like at clubs.

for Erntehelfer (Harvest helpers): Who would collect the asparagus from the fields during the corona crisis? This question ultimately ensured that many Eastern European harvest helpers were allowed to enter the country.

READ ALSO: For the love of Spargel: Why Germany has eased border rules amid the coronavirus pandemic

Around 160 Romanian harvest helpers leave the plane in Hahn, Rhineland-Palatinate on April 3rd. Photo: DPA

for Flatten the Curve: Flattening the curve is a slogan and public health strategy with the aim of at least slowing the spread of the Sars-CoV-2 virus in the Covid-19 pandemic.

G for Geschwurbel (nonsense): Many find conspiracy theory to be too kind a phrase for the sorts of wild theses and conjectures, such as “hygiene demos”, that some have been expressing and organizing during the crisis. One thing for sure, however, is that things are more uncertain, which takes people a while to get used to.

H for HomeofficeHomeschooling: Closed workplaces and schools created stressful situations for millions of people – working at home and childcare pushed many to their limits.

READ ALSO: German government set to introduce permant 'righ to work from home'

I for Ischgl: This place in Tyrol became famous as the location from which the coronavirus may have spread to large parts of Europe. In particular, many are thought to have contracted the virus at après-ski parties in the winter sports resorts.

J for Joggen (Jogging): Some described experiences with joggers who dashed past them whilst wheezing, without any awareness of the problem. The “taz” polemicised about “the SUVs of pedestrians”. So-called combat joggers did not look left and right while running.

K for Kernfamilie (nuclear family): A term that suddenly appeared in the political debate about contact restrictions. For example, in March Chancellor Helge Braun said that meetings “outside the nuclear family” were unfortunately not allowed.

L for Lockdown and Lockerung (loosening): “Lockdown” literally means a ban on leaving buildings or certain areas. Amid the corona crisis, the word has been used as a synonym for the restriction of public life – for a “shutdown”. In contrast, Lockerung (loosening) is used for the reopening. 

A shop in Leipzig displaying a range of face masks. Photo: DPA

M for Maske (mask) and Mund-Nase-Schutz (mouth-nose protection): people used to view Asians wearing masks with amazement. But now the arrogance has washed away, as millions have realised the benefit of mouth-nose protection with regard to a possible droplet infection. It also quickly became a fashion accessory – masks are the new sneakers.

N for Nudeln (pasta): In addition to jokes about toilet paper and panic buyers, pasta jokes were popular for a while, especially at the beginning of the crisis. Reason: What do lots of people cook when they suddenly have to do it themselves at home and want something quick and easy? Pasta, of course! Basta.

O for Online boom: Retail in Germany suffered big losses in sales due to closed shops during the corona crisis. While the food and beverage business picked up during the shutdown, for fashion retailers it was a disaster.  

OE for Öffnungsdiskussionsorgien (Opening discussion orgies): This word was created by Chancellor Angela Mekel on April 20th during a conference call of the CDU Executive Committee regarding further easing of the lockdown in federal states. Angela Merkel was concerned about the risk of relapse.

READ ALSO: 'Orgies' and squabbling: Why Germany is not in control of the pandemic as much as it appears

P for prominente Tote (prominent deaths): The list of famous people who died of Covid-19 is long. Amongst them are magician Roy Horn (of Siegfried und Roy), the “I Love Rock 'n' Roll”-Songwriter Alan Merrill, Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, the Rapper Ty, playwright Terrence McNally, actress Lee Fierro, actors Allen Garfield, Mark Blum and Tim Brooke-Taylor, musician Adam Schlesinger, saxophonists Lee Konitz and Manu Dibango, trumpeter Wallace Roney, bassist Henry Grimes, camera man Allen Daviau (known for’E.T.’) as well as Jörn Kubicki, life partner of Berlin’s former mayor Klaus Wowereit.

for Queen: Of all of the world leaders, Queen Elizabeth II was probably the most impressive, when she called upon her subjects on April 5th to hold out together. “But better days will come again, we will be united with our friends, we will be united with our families. We'll meet again.”

for Relevanz (relevance) und R-Wert (R-number): System relevance became the catchphrase – doctors, nurses, sales assistants, rubbish collectors are essential for society. In contrast, there were heated discussions in restaurants, theatres and the Bundesliga. What really matters? Another term with R was the R value (number of reproductions), which indicates how many people are infected by the virus on average.

for Social Distancing and Superspreading: English expressions are often used in place of their German counterparts. Instead of saying “körperlichen Abstand wahren“ (keep your physical distance), “social distancing” seems to have become the prevailing slogan. Meanwhile, “super spreaders” are people who infect a particularly large number of people. The fear of super spreading events is still continuing.

for Triage: the decision which some medical professionals have had to take about who to continue treating and who to give up on. A horror scenario of a pandemic that has become a bitter reality in some places.

for Urlaub (holiday): Summer holidays will be different for most people in 2020. Due to uncertainties and travel restrictions, millions are planning, at most, one domestic vacation (keyword “staycation”). The Rhön is also beautiful. Mallorca tested an opening for tourists in June after months of lockdown – initially with 6,000 Germans because of the “very good epidemiological situation” in Germany. The experiment serves to test the measures against corona infections under everyday conditions.

READ ALSO: 'We are very glad to be here': German tourists fly to Mallorca in post-Covid tourist project

for Visiere (visors): also called face shields. They are used in catering and by doctors or hairdressers as additional protection. However, they are not intended to prevent the release of aerosols as well as masks. According to the Robert Koch Institute, visors cannot be seen as an equivalent alternative to covering the mouth and nose.

A bridge lit up with the slogan “Victory for Wuhan” on March 15th in Wuhan. Photo: DPA

W for Wuhan: City of millions in central China and presumably the place of origin of the pandemic; In an unprecedented campaign, the Chinese government sealed off the city, which was particularly hard hit by the coronavirus, for months.

for XXX: Top-level domain for erotic content and sex – in times of the pandemic and the distance requirement, many have had to switch to porn.

for Yogamatte (Yoga Mat): Closed gyms and psychological tension drove many onto the mat at home for small training sessions or relaxation exercises.

for Zoom: Video app that has become popular and that many now know from working at home. What used to be discussed in the office over a coffee in the kitchen or at the conference table is now happening on the screen. This also leads to unwanted insights into the private life of colleagues.

This article originally appeared on The Local Germany on June 22nd, 2020. 


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UPDATE: What are Switzerland’s rules for cannabis consumption?

Switzerland has a complicated set of rules for both medical and recreational cannabis consumption. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are Switzerland's rules for cannabis consumption?

Long prohibited and seen as a gateway drug with potentially dangerous impacts, countries across the globe have begun legalising cannabis in recent years. 

While the legalisation for medical use has been widespread, there have also been successful legalisation campaigns in several countries. 

The situation in Switzerland is also in flux and has been complicated by a range of recent changes.

Whether referred to as cannabis, marijuana or hemp, Switzerland’s Narcotics Act qualifies it as “a psychoactive substance”, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being its most intoxicating ingredient.

The law specifies that “only THC is controlled under the Narcotics Act. Other active substances like cannabidiol (CBD) are not subject to the Narcotics Act as they do not have comparable psychoactive effects”.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Switzerland has legalised medical marijuana 

As of August 1st, the use of cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed in Switzerland

Patients who are medically prescribed the drug will no longer need to seek exceptional permission from the health ministry, as was the case prior to August 1st. 

Demand for cannabis-based treatments has risen sharply, with the health ministry issuing 3,000 exceptional authorisations in 2019.

The government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients” and was therefore lifting the ban on its use for that purpose, it said in a statement.

The previous procedure involved “tedious administrative procedures”, said the ministry. “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”

As of August 1st, “the decision as to whether a cannabis medicinal product is to be used therapeutically will be made by the doctor together with the patient” the government wrote

The sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes will remain prohibited.

READ MORE: Switzerland to lift ban on medical use cannabis

The new regulations could benefit thousands of people suffering from severe chronic pain, it added, including those with cancer and multiple sclerosis.

READ ALSO: Why Basel is about to become Switzerland’s marijuana capital

The law change will also mean that the cultivation, processing, manufacture and trade of cannabis for medical use will be subject to the Swissmedic regulatory authority, just as with other narcotics for medical use such as cocaine, methadone and morphine.

Legality of recreational cannabis is determined by the THC

THC of at least 1 percent is generally prohibited in Switzerland and use of products with this (or higher) content may be punishable by a 100-franc fine.

Of course, if someone is determined to smoke it, 100 francs may not be much a deterrent — but that’s a subject for another article.

“By contrast, possession of up to 10g of cannabis for personal use is not considered a criminal offence”, the law states, as long as it is not used by or sold to minors.

Italy's constitutional court has blocked the latest efforts to legalise cannabis.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

And, as with nearly everything else in decentralised Switzerland, “there are still considerable differences between cantons regarding implementation of the fixed penalty procedure”.

However, “cannabis flowers intended for smoking with a high proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 1 percent THC can be sold and purchased legally”, according to the legislation. 

That’s because, unlike the THC, cannabidiol “does not have a psychoactive effect”.

In other words, low-content THC and CBD will not give the “high” that recreational users seek.

When will Switzerland legalise recreational cannabis?

Currently, small amounts of recreational cannabis are tolerated in Switzerland.

“The decisive factor for classification as a banned drug is how much THC is contained in a cannabis product. If the THC content exceeds one per cent, the product is prohibited. Hashish is prohibited regardless of its THC content.”

As noted by the Swiss government, “If you are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis (no more than 10 grams) for your own consumption, you will not be fined. In addition, if you supply (but do not sell) up to 10 grams to an adult, e.g. when sharing joints, you will not be fined.”

“If you are caught using cannabis, you may be given a fixed penalty fine of 100 francs.”

In June 2020, the National Council approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use.

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study seeks to find out how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation will also be examined. 

At this point, no decisions have been made. However, Swiss authorities have set certain conditions in case recreational use is approved.

The National Council said if cannabis were to be legalised, it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and it must be organic. 

Health Minister Alain Berset noted that legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”.

READ MORE: Switzerland backs recreational cannabis trials – with one condition

Can you grow your own cannabis?

In truth, a number of people cultivate marijuana plants on their balconies or in their (secluded) gardens for their own personal use.

As it turns out, the law allows it, as long as it is a variety of the plant that does not have a narcotic effect — that is, the THC content must be less than 1 percent. 

By the same token, cannabis-based products with THC content of below 1 percent can be brought into Switzerland from abroad.

However, the import rules differ depending on the type of product  it is — flowers, seeds, extracts, oils, or other goods.

How much cannabis is consumed in Switzerland each year?

Precise numbers are hard to come by, but according to an article in Le Temps, which based its information on a medical study, about 100 tonnes are consumed in the country annually.

Cannabis remains the largest market in terms of volume: it represents 85 percent of drugs consumed in Switzerland, netting between 340, 000 and 500,000 francs per year.

READ MORE: Drugs and alcohol: Just how much do the Swiss consume?