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VACCINATION

‘Closer to normality’: German Bundestag to vote on easing Covid curbs for vaccinated people

People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will no longer have to abide by curfews and contact rules in Germany under a draft law, which is set to be voted on by the Bundestag on Thursday.

'Closer to normality': German Bundestag to vote on easing Covid curbs for vaccinated people
A man receives a vaccine at the Düsseldorf Vaccine Centre on May 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

They will also be allowed access to shops and other facilities without first providing a negative test result as is currently required of the rest of the population, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Tuesday while announcing the measures. 

They may come into force as early as this weekend if approved by the German parliament on Thursday, and the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states, on Friday.

There must be a “good reason” for any restrictions on public life, Lambrecht said. “As soon as this reason ceases to exist…these restrictions should then no longer be in place,” she said.

Under national measures introduced in April, areas with an incidence rate of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days must introduce overnight curfews and people may only meet with one other person from another household during the day.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s new nationwide Covid-19 rules

Areas with lower incidence rates are however allowed to open shops, restaurants, cinemas and other facilities to anyone who can provide a negative test.

The new regulation will also put vaccinated people and those who have recovered from a Covid-19 infection on a par with those who can provide a negative test, Lambrecht said.

Some German states, including Berlin and Bavaria, have already announced plans to scrap the negative test requirement for vaccinated people when they go shopping or visit the hairdresser.

READ ALSO: Bavaria and Berlin ease Covid rules for vaccinated people

The Bavarian cabinet on Tuesday also signed off a plan to allow hotels, holiday homes and campsites to open in regions with low incidence rates from May 21st.

Germany has been in some form of virus shutdown since November, with numbers of new infections remaining consistently high amid an initially sluggish vaccination campaign.

But the campaign has since picked up pace, with more than a million jabs issued in one day last week, and new infection numbers have started to come down gradually.

READ ALSO: Germany breaks European record by giving a million Covid jabs in a day

‘We must not jeopardise success’

The Robert Koch Institute health agency recorded 21,953 new infections in the past 24 hours on Thursday and 250 deaths, with a national 7-day incidence rate of 129.1. The incidence has dropped considerably since the end of April.

But despite these successes, critics say it is too soon to be lifting restrictions.

Ute Teichert, the head of the Federal Association of German Public Health Officers, said it was “imperative that vaccinated people continue to be tested”.

“Without comprehensive testing, we will lose sight of the incidence of infections — especially with regard to virus variants,” she told the Funke media group on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Why are Germany’s coronavirus numbers coming down so sharply?

MP and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach said it was reasonable to lift some restrictions for vaccinated people, but restaurants, bars and other facilities should not be reopened just for them.

“We must not make the mistake of jeopardising the successes achieved by the national ’emergency brake’,” he warned, referring to the national restrictive measures introduced in April.

Member comments

  1. As a 31 year old expat with only around 5 close friends here I find it infuriating that now we, the young people are the ones that will be paying the price now in the end and possibly missing out on all the summer fun. As I understood it, the lockdowns were to ensure the protection of risk groups in the first place. Now that they are almost all vaccinated, why do the rest have to still stay at home looking at our few lucky friends who’s brothers wife is pregnant or something get to live a full life. If they’re gonna lift restrictions, they better have a plan how to make young people’s lives liveable somehow for the time being since it doesn’t look like we’ll be fully vaccinated before September or so.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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