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.


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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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.