Germany plans ‘full freedom’ for vaccinated in Covid crunch talks

People who are vaccinated against - or recovered from - Covid could regain a number of freedoms in Germany this autumn, while the unvaccinated are likely to face charges for regular tests.

Germany plans 'full freedom' for vaccinated in Covid crunch talks
Visitors show their vaccination booklets to get into the Europa Park theme park in Baden-Württemburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

The proposals, which were laid out in a paper obtained by German daily Tagesspiegel, have been put forward by the Chancellery ahead of key talks between Angela Merkel and the 16 state leaders.

According to Tagesspiegel, Merkel’s office is pushing for those who have been fully jabbed to be given an almost complete return to normality in September – with the except of small rules like wearing a mask in public transport and shops.

In reality, that means that vaccinated and recovered people “will be exempt from federal and state regulations that impose testing requirements”, the paper states.

They would also be able to continue to avoid quarantine when returning from abroad – even after visiting virus variant or high-incidence areas. 

READ ALSO: How Germany’s new travel rules to fight the fourth Covid wave may affect your holiday plans

The requirement to show a negative test is likely to be introduced for practically all events and public venues before the end of August, meaning unvaccinated people will have to get tested regularly in order to eat in restaurants or attend sports events like football matches, for example. 

In addition, Merkel and the state leaders are set to discuss whether to end the current free rapid testing scheme, meaning unvaccinated people would regularly need to shell out between €20-30 if they wanted to visit a museum, or go to gym or bar, for instance. 


Those who have a certificate of vaccination or recovery to hand, however, would simply have to show their digital certificate of vaccination or recovery, or a paper copy of either. 

A new ‘health pass’ system? 

As reported by The Local on Friday, the move equates to a ‘health pass’ system of the sort introduced in countries like Italy and France, where people need to show evidence of vaccination, recovery or negative tests in order to participate in public life again.

Describing where tests or certificates might be needed, the paper reportedly mentions indoor catering (i.e. restaurants and bars), accommodation such as hotels, gyms and services that require close physical contact, like hairdressers and beauty sales.

In addition, people could soon need to show their ‘health pass’ to access hospitals, old people’s and nursing homes, or attend big sports or cultural events.

READ ALSO: Is Germany set to introduce a nationwide ‘health pass’ system?

While some states have a similar system in place for certain types of event or activity, the regulations are currently not uniform across the country. If Merkel’s proposals are taken up, the system could well come in nationwide.

Lolli tests, ‘3G’ and the state of emergency 

A number of other Covid-related topics are up for discussion at Tuesday’s roundtable.

Some of the other items believed to be on the agenda include: 

  • Lolli tests for schoolchildren 

Lolli tests – a more comfortable alternative to the current nasal swap – are purportedly set to be used in schools and nurseries as a precaution against Covid breakouts.

Schoolchildren take their Lolli tests at a school in Essen. The Lolli tests are reported to be on the agenda at Tuesday’s talks. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roland Weihrauch

According to Tagesspiegel, the Chancellery paper suggests that exceptions would be in place for very young children. 

  • Transitioning from ‘3G’ to ‘2G’ 

Currently, the ‘3G’ rule (geimpft, genesen, gestestet) allows vaccinated, recovered or recently tested people to cross the border into Germany and enjoy activities like shopping or going to a concert.

In light the faltering inoculation drive, however, state premiers will debate federal government proposals to introduce a ‘2G’ system instead, which would remove the option to provide a negative test rather than proof of vaccination or recovery.

This is allegedly an option being pushed by the Federal Health Ministry – but only if infections reach a critical level in the coming months. 

  • A nationwide ‘traffic light’ system 

Though the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is keen for the 7-day incidence of infections per 100,000 people to remain a crucial bellwether for decisions on Covid regulations, there is general agreement among politicians that other factors need to be taken into account.

This is because, with around 55 percent of the population fully vaccinated, hospital admissions could remain at a low level in spite of rising infection rates. 

READ ALSO: German virologist says UK’s falling Covid cases despite lifting restrictions gives ‘hope’

Deciding the basis on which key political decisions should be made will be a major discussion point at the upcoming talks. If politicians decide that the 7-day incidence is no longer enough by itself, plans could be put in place for a nationwide ‘traffic light’ system – similar to the one in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania – that grades the Covid situation based on numerous factors, such as infections, deaths and hospitalisations. 

  • Extending the ‘epidemic situation’ legislation

A piece of legislation declaring the country to be in an “epidemic situation of national significance” was last voted on in early June, and is due to expire on September 11th. The legislation provides a legal basis for the federal government to put emergency regulations in place during the pandemic and even overrule the states on some matters.

At the talks this Tuesday, the government and state leaders will discuss renewing this legislation for another three months. 

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Merkel’s Covid talks with state leaders?

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Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?