A hairdresser cuts the hair of a client sitting in a space separated by transparent panes at the hair salon ‘Harmony’ in Dortmund, western Germany, on the day of its reopening after being closed for more than two months.-AFP photos

Hans-Joachim Berthold had a spring in his step as he set off down the street on Monday morning after getting his hair cut for the first time in two and a half months. “It’s such a relief. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror before!” the 64-year-old told AFP. Berthold was one of hundreds of Germans who were able to go to the hairdresser for the first time since December, as the country eased some tough coronavirus restrictions on Monday. Besides hairdressers, florists and garden centres have been allowed to open in certain states such as Bavaria, while other regions such as Schleswig-Holstein have reopened zoos for the first time since December 16.

“As soon as I found out in February that they were going to reopen, I booked an appointment for me and my wife,” said Berthold, sporting a smart short-back-and-sides after his visit to the Haarstudio 030 salon in central Berlin. While his job in IT has allowed him to work from home during the lockdown, his long hair still bugged him during regular video meetings, he explained.”I could always see it falling over my face. It’s just a joy to think I look normal again,” he said.

Hairdresser Simone Gurzinski blow dries the hair of a client, both wearing a face mask, after reopening her hair salon in Berlin.

Fully booked
Salon manager Manuel Heinsch said it is “really important” that he is able to work again. “Rents aren’t cheap in this area anyway and we haven’t had any real financial help from the government,” the 32-year-old, who opened Haarstudio 030 in 2019, told AFP. “It feels great to finally work again.” Heinsch received several customers within minutes of opening his doors on Monday, beaming as he welcomed regulars back into the salon. According to the new rules, customers have to book an appointment in advance, and Heinsch is already fully booked until the end of the week.

“We will do a 10-hour shift from 10am to 8pm,” he said, gesturing to his three-person team. Others worked even longer hours on Monday, with one salon in Dortmund opening on the stroke of midnight and serving customers through the small hours of the morning. In Bavaria, local media reported that one salon had raised 422 euros by auctioning off its first appointment. Following Monday’s reopening of hairdressers and a partial return to schools for some pupils last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel and German regional leaders will meet again today to discuss possible further relaxations.

Yet after a decrease in case numbers in February, experts have cautioned that Germany’s infection rate has stabilized and even climbed in recent days as concerns grow about the spread of new, more contagious virus variants. For his part, Berthold hopes that the hairdressers will stay open for “a while yet”, and not just for the sake of his own fringe. “I didn’t understand why they closed them, because the hairdressers did everything they could in terms of hygiene measures,” he said, as his wife went into the salon for her appointment. “But it is what it is. I am just happy that we can now go and get our hair cut when we want.” – AFP