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VACCINATIONS

Germany to allow more freedom for Covid-vaccinated people from Sunday

Germany has passed new measures that will see people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and those who've recovered from the virus, no longer have to abide by curfews, as well as quarantine and contact rules.

Germany to allow more freedom for Covid-vaccinated people from Sunday
A person receiving documents after being vaccinated in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weissbrod

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.

On Thursday the grand coalition – made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU plus the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left voted in favour of the regulation. 

The pro-business FDP abstained, while the far-right AfD voted against it.

The law was approved by the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states, on Friday. It will come into force from Sunday, the German government clarified on its website.

It was originally reported that it would come into force Saturday.

READ ALSO: ‘Closer to normality’: Germany takes step to ease Covid rules for vaccinated people

What does it mean?

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 can only meet with one other person from another household during the day.

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 put vaccinated people and those who have recovered from Covid-19 (if the infection occurred no more than six months ago) on an equal footing with those who’ve tested negatively for the virus. So these groups will not need to show a negative test to visit the hairdresser, museum or the zoo, for example, but will instead be asked to present a full vaccination certificate. 

IN DETAIL: These are Germany’s planned new freedoms for vaccinated people and Covid survivors

– When the law comes into force, it also means people with immunity will be able to meet in unlimited numbers – so they won’t face the tougher contact restrictions.

– They also won’t have to adhere to curfews.

– After contact with someone infected with coronavirus, vaccinated people and those who have recovered will no longer have to go into quarantine.

– They also won’t have to self-isolate after travel unless they are coming from a country that has been designated a high-risk area.

– However, general safety rules such as mandatory masks and keeping a distance will still apply to people with immunity.

Some German states have already started easing some rules for people with immunity.

Angela Merkel casting her vote in the Bundestag on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

‘Important step’

In the debate in the Bundestag before the vote on Thursday, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) said: “This is an important step.”

Lambrecht said it will mean that people in nursing homes will be able to socialise again, among other things.

At the same time, the Lambrecht stressed that Germany still had to continue fighting the pandemic. 

“We must all work together at full speed to ensure that these steps towards normality do not only apply to those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered, but that we all work to regain this longed-for normality,” she said.

READ ALSO:

Law ‘doesn’t go far enough’

The FDP, however, said the law doesn’t go far enough. The party welcomes the return of freedom, said Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, health policy spokesperson of the FDP. “But rights and freedoms only exist as a whole,” she said.

She said it was incomprehensible that essential restrictions on freedom should continue to apply to vaccinated people in hotels, leisure facilities or cultural venues, for example. These facilities have largely been closed since November.

“There is no apparent reason why vaccinated people and people who’ve recovered cannot play team sports together, for example, or why a restaurateur cannot open his indoor premises to vaccinated people,” said Aschenberg-Dugnus.

About 31.5 percent of the population had received at least one jab up to May 6th, and 8.8 percent had been fully inoculated – meaning just under 10 percent of people are currently eligible for increased freedoms, not including those who have recovered from the virus.

READ ALSO: Germany reaches milestone of 30 percent of population vaccinated against Covid

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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