German government proposes more rights for vaccinated people: What you need to know

On Monday Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state premiers will discuss whether those who have been fully vaccinated should receive more basic freedoms. Here’s what that could entail.

Travellers, such as these pictured at Munich's airport in August, could receive easier access to travel. Photo: Christof Stache / AFP

Not even one in 10 people in Germany has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 so far. Nevertheless, the government is already thinking about if – and how – people who’ve received their jabs should receive ‘special privileges’, or at least be able to return to the activities they could easily do before the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany mulls easing virus curbs for vaccinated people

Under the proposed relaxations, first announced at the weekend, people who are fully vaccinated would no longer have to show a recent negative coronavirus test to enter certain shops, get a haircut or attend certain events.

They would also be exempt from quarantining after returning from abroad, unless they were coming from a country classed as a high-risk virus variant area such as India.

The federal-state discussions on this topic, and Germany’s overall vaccine campaign, are set to take place Monday at 3pm. 

What will happen to those who have been vaccinated?

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), vaccinated people are even less likely to spread a Covid-19 infection than those who have received a negative test, due to the lack of reliability with some tests. 

It should therefore be “legally required that vaccinated people have the same rights as tested people,” CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.

Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer told the Funke media group: “It is self-evident and imperative that people who cannot be carriers of the virus as a result of their vaccination, or only with a very low probability, are not restricted.”

Kretschmer also called for vaccinations carried out abroad to be recognized in Germany – even if the vaccine in question has not yet been approved in the EU.

The business-friendly liberal Free Democrats (FDP) also welcomed the plans.

“Now that we know that vaccinated people cannot transmit the virus, their basic rights must no longer be restricted,” FDP Secretary General Volker Wissing told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

 “The state must have a reason vis-à-vis each individual why it restricts freedoms.”

Vaccinated nursing home residents should be allowed to eat together and have visitors again, said Katrin Göring-Eckardt, chairwoman of the Green Party in the Bundestag, to the Rheinische Post.

A kindergarten teacher receives a vaccination. Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / POOL / AFP

What do the experts advise?

When fully vaccinated people meet, contact restrictions can be relaxed, according to the EU health agency (ECDC).

However, in some situations, distance and mask rules should be maintained regardless of the vaccination status of those involved, such as in public spaces, large gatherings and when travelling. 

For meetings between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, the experts further recommend maintaining distance and masks. However, research results, which are still limited, indicate that if vaccinated people catch an infection despite being vaccinated, they are less likely to pass on the virus.

Why is there talk about exemptions for vaccinated people now?

The majority of the German population has not yet been vaccinated, but the government knows how high the legal hurdles are for loosening restrictions. 

More than two dozen lawsuits have already been filed at Germany’s constitutional court in Karlsruhe against various aspects of the nationwide “emergency brake”, which went into effect on Saturday and put strict measures, such as night time curfews and school closures, into place for regions with high Covid incidences. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s new ’emergency brake’ Covid restrictions come into force

Will swimming pools and restaurants open for the vaccinated and recovered?

There are no plans to do so yet. Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday also said he didn’t think these plans would happen.

But it cannot be ruled out that it will happen – and before the pandemic is completely over. It is also conceivable that people who do not want to be vaccinated will also be allowed to enter these places, but with a negative test. 

When will the exemptions for vaccinated people apply?

The decision is unlikely to be made quickly.

But politically, the government is in a bind. The sooner there is relief for this group, the sooner some people who have shown no interest in vaccination so far may make an effort to get vaccinated. This brings Germany closer to the goal of so-called herd immunity.

If only a minority of the population is exempt from tough restrictions, however, there is the threat of even more criticism of the “emergency brake” and what many people in Germany still see as an insufficient pace of vaccination. 

By the end of the week, about seven percent of the population in this country had been fully vaccinated. Just under 23 percent have received at least one dose.

Will the pace of vaccination pick up?

Last week, the German Health Minister Spahn also called for every adult to be eligible for a vaccine by June, but warned that this does not mean jabs will be automatically available to everyone.

READ ALSO: ‘We won’t be able to vaccinate everyone in June’ warns German health minister

Four German states also released the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine, for which some have a surplus, to anyone who had a consultation with a doctor.

At the weekend CSU leader Markus Söder suggested vaccinating significantly more within workplaces and families.

The Bavarian state premier furthermore proposed to completely release all vaccines as early as May and also to increasingly vaccinate schoolchildren over the age of 16.

“We need company vaccinations, we need family vaccinations,” said the Bavarian premier on Sunday in the ARD program Report from Berlin, referring to the situations in which he said the infection was prone to spread the quickest.

READ ALSO: ‘The only way forward’: Should Germany introduce a Covid-19 immunity passport

Member comments

  1. Two questions….actually three:

    1. Why have we not been vaccinated yet? Even though we want to and many are happy to pay for it.

    2. Why should those, who have been vaccinated, enjoy additional freedoms?

    3. Why are those a**holes who are not adhering to the laws and rules going unpunished (and making the rest of us suffering longer?)?

  2. At the beginning of June, I will be traveling by road from Italy, through Switzerland, to Germany to fly out of Frankfurt.

    Does Germany require road travelers to be tested?

    Will it matter that I am fully vaccinated with Moderna?

  3. This should only be done when everyone is offered a chance to be vaccinated. What’s the point in having incentives to be vaccinated when most age groups aren’t even allowed to be vaccinated yet?

    My neighbours (in late 60s) got their first shots last week – I’m 40 and I’m guessing I’ll be waiting for quite a while longer…

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.