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EXPLAINED: How Germany aims to increase vaccinations and control the Covid fourth wave

EXPLAINED: How Germany aims to increase vaccinations and control the Covid fourth wave
Berlin mayor Michael Müller, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian state premier Markus Söder leaving the press conference on August 10th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Reuters/Pool | Christian Mang
Germany is planning to expand its Covid health pass scheme and charge for Covid tests in a bid to encourage more people to get vaccinated. Here's a look at what the government and states have agreed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the 16 state premiers on Tuesday to thrash out Germany’s strategy for dealing with the fourth Covid wave this autumn. 

They decided to expand Germany’s version of the ‘Covid health pass’ scheme, and get rid of free rapid tests as a way of boosting vaccinations. 

READ ALSO: Germany to end free-of-charge Covid tests in bid to boost vaccine take-up

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Here are the main points: 

  • Rapid tests will no longer be free for all from October 11th. There will be some exceptions such as for those who can’t get the Covid vaccine for medical reasons and children. People who choose not to get the Covid jab, even though they are eligible to get it, will have to pay for rapid tests themselves.
  • The 3G requirement – which means people have to be vaccinated (geimpft), in recovery from Covid (genesen) or tested (getestet) will be significantly tightened. When a district hits a 7-day incidence of 35 Covid infections per 100,000 people, the rule will apply in several indoor areas like in restaurants, cinemas and gyms – and also in hospitals, care homes and assisted living facilities. States will have some say on how this works. This rule will come in nationwide on August 23rd.
  • The 7-day incidence is to remain the definitive benchmark for assessing the Covid situation in Germany. However, other indicators such as the vaccination rate, the number of severe courses of disease, and the burden on the health care system are to be monitored more closely in the future.
  • The Bundestag is to extend the “epidemic situation of national importance” beyond September 11th at the request of the federal and state governments. The emergency situation is considered the government’s most important legal basis for implementing measures in the pandemic. It gives the federal government the right to directly issue regulations on issues like testing and vaccination.

How will Germany decide how to put more measures in place in future?

Up to this point, German states and the government have been using the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 to measure when to bring more rules in. For instance, the emergency brake measures – which included a curfew – were brought in when areas reached 100 Covid cases per 100,000 people.

READ ALSO: Germany at ‘start of fourth wave’ – but Covid infections are slowing

But now that risk groups are protected through vaccination, authorities want to consider other factors for deciding measures – such as Covid hospital admissions.

However, Merkel stressed that the incidence was still one of the most important factors.


From August 23rd, unvaccinated people will need a negative Covid test to visit hospitals in areas where the incidence is above 35. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ulrich Perrey

“If the incidence in 20-year-olds increases dramatically, there will be hospitalisations there as well, ” she said, adding that the figure remains relevant.

“We have not yet found a happy formula to replace this figure,” added Bavaria’s Minister President Markus Söder (CSU). He said this will be looked at in the coming weeks and months.

In future states will be able to take greater account of indicators such as vaccination rates or the number of of Covid patients being admitted to hospital as well as the incidence.

These indicators could be used “to quickly and accurately estimate the extent to which new infections are still leading to severe courses of disease in light of the growing immunity in the population,” according to the resolution paper by the federal and state governments.

What else are politicians saying?

Merkel pleaded for people to get vaccinated.

“It is everyone’s responsibility … to promote vaccination wherever possible,” said Merkel said, urging “all friends and family members who have been vaccinated to promote this in their circles of friends and families and sport clubs”.

She said she was frustrated at the slow pace of vaccinations in Germany which have taken a nose dive in recent weeks. 

“Germany is not leading Europe in vaccination coverage anymore,” said Merkel. “There’s a row of countries that are doing better and where people are happier to get vaccinated than in Germany.” 


Bavarian state premier Markus Söder and Chancellor Merkel at Tuesday’s press conference, following the roundtable. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Reuters/Pool | Christian Mang

“The fourth wave is really creeping up,” Bavaria’s premier Söder said. “We’re good at vaccinating, but nowhere near as good as we need to be.”

At the same time, Söder promised that another lockdown would be avoided at all costs. Future restrictions will apply primarily to those who refuse vaccination.

“Our normal life is coming back through vaccination,” Söder said. 

Will ‘3G’ change to ‘2G”? 

There has been some discussion over the last few weeks about changing the ‘3G’ vaccinated, recovered or tested rule to a ‘2G’ rule – meaning that unvaccinated people would be be barred from some areas of life, like attending large football matches or going to nightclubs.

This has been proposed as a potential measure by the Federal Health Ministry, who want to see it brought in if infection rates reach a very high level.

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

Such a move would be incredibly controversial and there was clearly no agreement on it at Tuesday’s roundtable – but some are keen to continue the debate.

Markus Söder, who has previously floated the idea of ‘vaccinated-only’ clubs and nightlife in his home state of Bavaria, said he believed 2G would continue to be high on the political agenda in the coming weeks. 

“2G will come in one way or another from a certain point on and I would rather we talked about it honestly now rather than postpone it until after the federal elections,” he said. 


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