Germany moves to relax Covid rules for vaccinated people

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says vaccinated people, as well as those who have recovered from Covid, will have more freedoms - and has promised that the strict priority list for vaccines will be lifted in June at the latest.

Germany moves to relax Covid rules for vaccinated people
Merkel speaks at a press conference at the vaccination summit on Monday. Photo: DPA

Speaking after talks with the regional premiers of Germany’s 16 states, Merkel said people who have received both jabs should “obviously” be allowed to get a haircut or go into a shop without having to show a negative coronavirus test, and be exempt from quarantining after close contact with an infected person.

The same would apply to people who can prove they have recovered from a coronavirus infection, for instance by showing a positive PCR test that is at least 28 days old.

The government would prepare a decree setting out its proposals, she told a Berlin press conference, which will then be discussed in parliament.

The veteran leader did not give a timeframe for when the relaxations might come into force.

Merkel said the move to give those with Covid immunity back some of their basic rights comes after the country’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases recently found that fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered, “no longer pose a relevant infection danger”.

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

But she warned that Germany faced a “difficult transition phase” as a growing number of people get their shots and will be hungry for more freedoms, while a significant part of the population will still be living with tough restrictions.

Although it was important to give people back their basic rights “as soon as possible”, she said, “we will have to live with the virus for a long while to come.”

According to the Health Ministry, almost six million people in Germany had received two vaccine doses by Sunday, which means they are considered fully vaccinated.

A total of 19.5 million people have received at least one vaccination. The number of those who have recovered is 2.9 million, according to the RKI.

Vaccines will be opened up to all adults

Merkel also reiterated that all adults will be able to apply for a Covid vaccine in June “at the latest”.

Germany has so far followed a strict priority list on who can be vaccinated first, mainly based on age. 

But when this is lifted, all adults will be able to apply for a vaccine appointment, said Merkel.

“This does not mean that everyone can then be vaccinated immediately,” she added. “But everyone can apply for a vaccination appointment, and they will then be given one according to the supply.”

In many federal states, priority groups one and two have already been inoculated, Merkel continued. Jabs for group three – which includes those aged between 60 and 69 – are starting.

IN NUMBERS: Is Germany ramping up the Covid-19 vaccine rollout?

By and large, it is expected that this group will receive their first jab in May, “so that we can then lift the prioritisation from June at the latest, depending on how many vaccine doses we receive – but I say again: at the latest”, said Merkel.

She also said that in-house company doctors will be increasingly involved in the vaccination campaign from June onwards.

‘Big problems in the present’

On Monday Germany reported a 7-day incidence 175.1 Covid cases per 100,000 people, according to the RKI. There was a total of 12,151 new infections within 24 hours, up by two percent from the previous Monday.

Merkel dampened expectations for a rapid improvement in Germany’s Covid situation.

On Saturday national rules including curfews were brought in for Covid-hotspots – dubbed the ’emergency brake’.

“How the emergency brake works depends on how many people comply,” she said. The danger that the health system could become overburdened has not been averted, she added.

READ ALSO: ‘I finally might be able to go home’: What it’s like to get a Covid jab in Germany

Merkel did not want to make any promises about how freely Germans could travel on holiday this summer: “Despite all the hopes we have, we still have big problems in the present,” she said.

Member comments

  1. What about anti-bodies tests? And people getting their freedom back if they provide confirmation of Covid-19 anti-bodies…because neither jabs, neither old positive test is sufficient and fixes the main issue beside not being 100% sure that all those people can not transmit the virus and actually have enough anti-bodies developed.
    Here comes the question also with the people who have had the virus with mild or no symptoms and have no old positive test so they can enjoy more freedom as well.
    The government should think about ways in which people will not be discriminated because they did not have had the virus or are not vaccinated!

  2. First week of May nearly gone, & in Dortmund 60+ people STILL cannot make appointments. I just hope there is no mad rush to remove the Priority list before those of us still at higher risk have at least been able to make appointments!

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Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.