Germany considers tougher rules for the unvaccinated in autumn – but ‘drastic lockdown unlikely’

The German Health Ministry wants to continue Covid restrictions throughout autumn and winter, and may push for tighter rules for the unvaccinated - but politicians aren't predicting a strict lockdown.

Germany considers tougher rules for the unvaccinated in autumn - but 'drastic lockdown unlikely'
Visitors enjoy a concert at the Steinwerder Cruise Center on July 13th. The German Health Ministry is said to want events such as this to close to unvaccinated people if infection rates rise significantly. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

The proposals were revealed in a report obtained by DPA, in which government health officials set out their vision for the coming months.

Looking ahead to a potentially difficult autumn and winter, ministers allegedly argued that continued measures were needed “in order to protect the health system from excessive strain and to shield the groups of people who cannot yet be vaccinated from a potentially serious illness”.

However, due to a relatively high number of vaccinated people in Germany, people are unlikely to face the kinds of restrictions they saw in 2020 and the early months of 2021, according to the Ministry’s report . 

“A drastic lockdown like the ones we saw in the second and third waves will in all probability not be necessary,” they wrote. 

“A fourth wave of Covid infections has begun, albeit still at a low level. In addition to the increased influx of infections by people returning from travel, people are behaving almost the same as they were in the times before the pandemic.”

On Wednesday 3,571 Covid cases were reported within the last 24 hours in Germany, and 25 deaths. The 7-day incidence rose slightly to 18.5 cases per 100,000 people.

READ ALSO: Covid infection rate in Germany goes up – but vaccines having an impact

‘3G rule’ to remain – but could be tightened

In particular, the Health Ministry is said to be calling for a continuation of the ‘3G’ rule (geimpft, genesen, getestet), which dictates that people should be either vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) or tested for Covid (getestet) in order enter certain premises or take part in certain events.

Indoor catering, hotel accommodation, services that require close physical contact (i.e. hairdressing and beauty treatments), sports events, and large indoor and outdoor events were named as examples in the report, according to German daily Welt.

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

Regardless of infection rates, the Health Ministry is believed to want the 3G rule to continue until at least early or mid-September. 

If infection rates go up significantly, however, the rules could be tightened further, meaning that only recovered or vaccinated people – rather than those with a negative test – would be allowed to visit the likes of hotels, restaurants, beauticians or large public events.  

Mask-wearing ‘should continue until at least 2022’

According to media reports, the Health Ministry is also pushing for a stringent continuation of mask-wearing and social distancing rules until the early months of 2022. 

The three basic rules – hygiene, distance and mask-wearing – should be followed at all times when groups of people are gathered in enclosed spaces, ministers reportedly said in the plans. This is especially important when the vaccination status of attendees is unknown or when vulnerable people are present, they said.

READ ALSO: German investigators slam Covid sceptics for bringing children to demos

The report from the Health Ministry was sent to state leaders and the federal parliament in advance of a crunch meeting later this month. 

On August 10th, Chancellor Angela Merkel with meet with the state premiers in each of the German states to thrash out measures to combat the fourth wave.

The latest figures show 53 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and 62 percent have had at least one jab.  

Member comments

  1. but isnt it stupid when a vaccinated person can still spread the virus? whats the logic? i don’t get it honestly

    1. It is smart to get vaccinated and statistics are showing this. Depending on the vaccine and the variant, there is a high level of protection against serious disease and death, and reduced chance of passing on the virus. Better still, if we all get vaccinated, use masks and socially distance, there is an excellent chance life can return to something approaching normal relatively soon. Read The Local, which reports:

      According to the RKI, the majority of Covid cases recorded since February were among non-vaccinated people.
      The RKI estimates vaccine effectiveness at around 88 percent for people between 18 and 59 years of age and at around 87 per cent for the group over 60.
      “According to current knowledge, all vaccines currently available in Germany effectively protect against disease caused by the two main circulating VOCs (variants of concern), Delta and Alpha, when fully vaccinated,” said the RKI. Experts said data shows after receiving only one of two vaccine doses, the protective effect against Delta is “slightly reduced compared to Alpha”.
      Experts have urged people to get themselves fully vaccinated as soon as possible.
      The RKI said it is “strongly recommended to take advantage of the offers for vaccination against Covid-19 now”.

      This about covers it. Get vaccinated.

        1. Written, researched and targeted at your question only. Plenty of other good journalism here to back it up, of course.

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Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder (CSU) has announced plans for a "prompt" end to mandatory masks on buses and trains.

Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

If infection levels and hospitalisations remain low, the end of the mask-wearing rule could come as soon as December or January.

“We are convinced that the mask requirement in public transport could also be phased out either in mid-December or early next year, if the numbers remain reasonably stable and there are no new mutations,” Söder explained on Monday, following a meeting with the CSU executive committee. 

A decision on when to end the measure would be made “promptly”, he added.

The CSU politician had said last week that the sinking infection rates meant that compulsory masks were no longer appropriate and that the mandate could be changed to a recommendation. 

No set date for change

The latest version of Bavaria’s Infection Protection Act – which lays out an obligation to wear masks on public transport as one of the few remaining Covid rules – is currently due to expire on December 9th.

State ministers could decide whether to let obligatory masks on buses and trains lapse on this date as early as next week, or they could decide to initially extend the legislation and set an alternative date for ending the rule.

Regardless of their decision, FFP2 masks will continue to be mandatory on long-distance public transport until at least April next year, when the nationwide Infection Protection Act is due to expire.

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

Speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Florian Herrmann (CSU), head of the State Chancellery, confirmed that Covid-19 had been discussed in passing.

However, no decisions or discussions were made on how to proceed after the expiry of the regulation, he said.

According to Herrmann, the fact that Covid was no longer the “dominant topic” in the cabinet under “enormous tension” shows “that we are returning to normality” in a gradual transition from pandemic to endemic. 

As of Wednesday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people stood at 108 in Bavaria, down from 111 the previous day. However, experts have cast doubt on how meaningful the incidence is in light of the fact that fewer people are taking tests.

Nevertheless, the 133 hospital beds occupied by Covid patients in the Free State falls well below the 600 threshold for a ‘red alert’. With Omicron causing less severe courses of illness than previous variants, politicians have increasingly focussed on hospitalisation statistics to gauge the severity of the situation.

‘A risk-benefit trade-off’

Bavaria is the second federal state to announce plans to relax its mask-wearing rules in recent weeks.

On November 14th, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein announced that it would be ending obligatory FFP2 masks on public transport and urged other states to do the same. From January 2023, masks on public transport will only be recommended rather than mandated for passengers on local buses and trains. 

However, the Federal Ministry of Health has urged states not to loosen their rules too quickly.

Given that infection rates are likely to spike again in winter, “there’s no basis for loosening restrictions”, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD).

Physicians are also split on whether an end to masks on public transport is appropriate.

READ ALSO: Will Germany get rid of masks on public transport?

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at the German Hospital Day in Düsseldorf on November 14th. Lauterbach is against the lifting of the mask-wearing rule. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roberto Pfeil

Christoph Spinner, a virologist at the University Hospital in Munich, told Süddeutsche Zeitung he believed it was time to put the decision on mask-wearing back into the hands of individuals.

“Why not? The incidences are low, the danger of Covid-19 has dropped significantly and mortality has also decreased,” he said. 

But the Bavarian General Practitioners’ Association spoke out against the move, arguing that – unlike a trip to a restaurant or cinema – people often have no choice but to travel on public transport.

“If the obligation to wear a mask in public transport is maintained, this will help to protect against a Covid infection on the way to work by bus or train – especially in view of the discontinuation of the obligation to isolate in the event of a Covid infection,” they explained.

Bavaria is one of four states to have recently ended mandatory isolation for people who test positive for Covid. Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein both scrapped their isolation mandate last week, while Hesse removed its obligation on Tuesday. 

READ ALSO: Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation