Germany plans to make face masks mandatory at airports

All airports around Germany are planning on introducing a mask requirement for passengers and employees as travel increases over the summer.

Germany plans to make face masks mandatory at airports
A flight attendent in Cologne for Eurowings. Photo: DPA

Airport authorities and operators have drafted a proposal of safety measures for airports, reported Spiegel Online on Sunday.

The draft hones in on face masks in order to allow airports to handle more passengers over the summer months, especially in areas where it's difficult to maintain a 1.5 metre distance.

These include at the security check areas, the airport and shuttle buses, and the baggage reclaim at the taxiways.

The mask requirement is slated to come into effect before Germany's repeal of an EU-wide travel warning on June 15th, according to Spiegel.

READ ALSO: Germany to lift travel warning for EU countries from June 15th

After that, a large spike in passengers is expected – air traffic had slumped to as low as one percent of its normal level during Germany's lockdown in April and May at some airports, such as Berlin's Tegel.

Up until this point, Germany had only issued a general recommendation that people keep their nose and mouths covered at airports – as is required countrywide in supermarkets and on public transport. 

A passenger and employee at Cologne's airport on May 27th. Photo: DPA

The only exception to the mask requirement would be zones where passports are checked. Children under six years of age would also be exempt from wearing a mask, according to the draft.

The EU had also already proposed compulsory masks at airports as part of a proposal for safer summer travel. 

READ ALSO: Face masks in Germany: What are the requirements and potential fines in every state?

However, some of the draft measures coming from Brussels – above all keeping the middle seat in airplanes free – have been rejected by the aviation industry as economically nonviable. 

Several airlines, including Lufthansa, have already introduced a general obligation to wear masks on board. Large airports around Germany, such as those in Stuttgart, Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin, also require the face coverings in their terminals.

The Federal Ministry of Transport also wants to introduce regulations to ensure more distance at airports.

For example, markings at counters and vending machines will be set up to indicate a distance of 1.5 meters. Airlines are also to open as many counters as possible to minimize queues.

Germany’s state-owned railway company Deutsche Bahn also requires that employees wear a mask, and recommends that passengers use one.

READ ALSO: How the coronavirus pandemic is changing train travel in Germany

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now