Base barbers reopen as Germany cautiously eases coronavirus lockdown

Alexandra, a barber at Tower Barracks, left, cuts 1st Lt. Ryan Twigg-Smith's hair in the barbershop at Tower Barracks in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Monday, March 1, 2021. Monday was the first day hair salons, including barbershops, were allowed to reopen after closing in mid-December when Germany imposed a lockdown to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.



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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Long lines formed outside barbershops on U.S. military bases in Germany Monday as a handful of businesses were allowed to reopen, despite an uptick in the number of new coronavirus infections in the country.

More than a dozen service members and civilians waited for an open chair at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center’s barbershop on Ramstein Air Base, where haircuts were available by appointment only.

At Sigi’s, one of two other barbershops on base, stylists had no openings until next week, one of them said.

First Lt. Ryan Twigg-Smith of Charlie Troop, Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, was one of the first customers to get a cut at the barbershop at Tower Barracks in Grafenwoehr Monday, when it reopened.

Like many service members who have had to go without a professional haircut since the middle of December, Twigg-Smith admitted to shearing his locks himself during the 2 1/2-month lockdown that Germany has begun to cautiously lift.

“I spent like $40 on clippers and have had to buzz my head every couple weeks to stay within standards,” he said. “It is definitely a lot more convenient with the barber shop on base being open again.”

Off-base, some hair salons reopened just after midnight. Like the barbershops on base, they are only offering cuts by appointment — and some have no open slots before April.

Businesses, including florists, garden centers, home improvement stores, nail and foot care salons, have also reopened in most German states including Bavaria, which is home to Grafenwoehr and several other Army installations, and Rheinland-Pfalz, where Ramstein, Spangdahlem, Baumholder and Army and Air Force installations in Kaiserslautern are based. But they won't be operating in the same way as in pre-pandemic times.

Florists, garden centers and home improvement stores can only open outdoor areas and sell gardening-related goods, such as plants and tools.

Individual lessons can resume at music schools in Rheinland-Pfalz, provided the student and teacher remain six feet away from each other and the instruction doesn't involve a wind instrument. Voice lessons are also still banned.

Some retail shops can open by appointment for individual customers. A shoe shop in Homburg, in Rheinland-Pfalz, will only allow in two members of the same household at a time, and they will have 15 minutes to do their shopping, a staff member said on Facebook.

Restaurants and bars must remain closed, unless they do takeout and delivery orders, and hotels can only accommodate business travelers. Gyms and other sports and leisure facilities have also not been given the green light to reopen nationally, though base gyms remain open to service members, and in some cases, have opened to civilians at certain times.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet Wednesday with German state governors to decide what to with coronavirus restrictions that remain in place, until at least Sunday. In an interview last month with ZDF television, Merkel said that if the infection rate “stays below 35 for two weeks, we can look at the next step” in Germany’s careful, step-by-step reopening.

But Wednesday's meeting will take place amid an increase in infections. The Robert Koch Institute for disease control on Monday reported 4,732 new cases in one day and a seven-day incidence rate of just under 66 per 100,000 — up by five in the past week.

Marcus Kloeckner contributed to this report.

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Service members and civilians wait to get their hair cut Monday, March 1, 2021, at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center barber shop at Ramstein Air Base. Monday was the first day hair salons including barbershops, were allowed to reopen after closing in mid-December when Germany imposed a lockdown to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.