What you need to know about Germany's new '3G' Covid health pass rules
German states are tightening the Covid health pass system to try and increase vaccinations, amid rising infections across the country. Here's what it means.
The 16 federal states are bringing in new laws that will see Germany's Covid health pass become stricter. By August 23rd at the latest, uniform nationwide rules agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders at the recent summit will come into place across the country.
It is known as the '3G rule' in Germany. The Gs stands for the German geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) and getestet (tested). It means that people will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test to enter many places, such as cinemas or to visit people in nursing homes or hospitals.
This system formalises the patchwork regional approach that Germany has had in place since the end of the last Covid shutdown. The new approach is similar to other countries pushing the use of a health pass, including France and Italy.
"Those who are not vaccinated will have to be tested regularly if they meet other people indoors, in order to prevent the spread of the virus," said the government and states.
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But there's one more thing: from October 11th, free-for-all Covid tests will come to an end in Germany, meaning that people who are eligible for vaccination but choose not to get it will have to pay for their tests. This will have massive implications - and could become pricey - for those who don't want to get the Covid vaccine.
It also means that people - including tourists - who use the free testing system before travel will have to pay in future.
Why is this happening?
The aim is to convince people to get vaccinated as it's much easier to flash your EU digital vaccination certificate (or a recent PCR test if you're in recovery from Covid-19) than go and get a lateral flow test - or indeed pay money for a test in future.
But it's also in response to rising Covid cases. Germany is desperately trying to avoid a serious fourth Covid wave fuelled by the more transmissible Delta variant.
Where will the 3G rule apply?
People in Germany will have to get used to showing proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid test much more often.
There could be slight differences across states, but in general you will need this for entry to a cinema, theatre, amusement park, museum or gallery. You'll also need it to sit indoors in a restaurant, go to the gym or to the hairdresser. It will be needed for events and to visit tattoo parlours or beauty salons.
The 3G requirement will generally not apply to shops, petrol stations, pharmacies, doctors as well as local and long-distance public transport.
There will also be rules for entry to hotels and other overnight accommodation.
As part of Berlin's new rules which came into force on Friday August 20th, unvaccinated people will have to show a negative test when staying in hotels and repeat this every three days.
There will also be special rules for clubs in most regions. Under North Rhine-Westphalia's new restrictions anyone who wants to go to clubs or discos will need a negative PCR test if they are not vaccinated or in recovery from Covid. The same applies to sexual services, according to the state. The new rules come into place from Friday August 20th.
The state of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg are also only allowing unvaccinated people to enter clubs with a PCR test. Baden-Württemberg's rules are already in place.
All states will have their system up and running by Monday, August 23rd. As we mentioned previously, 3G proof has been required in lots of regions up to this point, but it is being expanded and moving to a nationwide regulation.
Do the new rules depend on the Covid incidence rate?
The federal and state governments agreed that the 3G rule has to apply in areas where the 7-day incidence of Covid cases rise above 35 cases per 100,000 people.
If the number is below that, states are free to decide whether or not to implement the rule anyway.
However, the rule applies in general to all visits to hospitals and nursing home settings regardless of the incidence.
As always, check with the state where you live in case there are any slight variations to the regulations.
How do you show proof?
The QR code can be uploaded to the Robert Koch Institute's (RKI) Corona-Warn-app or the Cov-Pass app. If you can't get access to that, you can keep the paper version of the QR code to use as proof.
If you've recovered from Covid, you can show evidence of a positive PCR test that should have been taken at least 28 days ago and be no older than six months.
If you're eligible for vaccination but choose not to get one, you can use a PCR test (usually no older than 48 hours depending on the state) or a rapid antigen test no older than 24 hours.
These are usually issued digitally or you can ask for a paper certificate.
How much will a rapid antigen Covid test cost?
Right now they are free to everyone in Germany, and there's a network of test centres across the country. But from October 11th, people will have to pay for them.
The ministries expect costs to range between €10 and €15. Pharmacies, however, believe the upper limit will be €20. But it really depends on the market and what the private providers decide.
PCR tests will be more expensive. At the moment they cost somewhere between €50 and €100 but it varies depending on the provider.
What about if I can't get the Covid vaccine?
As The Local previously reported, you will be required to show proof that you can't get the vaccine, such as a letter from your GP, and then you won't be charged for tests.
"For individuals who cannot be vaccinated and for whom no general vaccination recommendation is available (especially pregnant women, children and adolescents under 18 years of age), there will continue to be an opportunity for free antigen rapid test," said the government and states in its agreement paper.
However, now the STIKO vaccine commission has issued a general vaccine recommendation for everyone over 12, this may change. We'll keep you posted.
Testing provided in schools and workplaces will continue to be free of charge to pupils and employees.
What about if I have Covid symptoms?
Free-of-charge PCR tests for people in Germany with symptoms will continue to apply. The cost is covered by health insurance organisations. If you have Covid symptoms, such as a loss of taste or sense of smell and a cough, contact your GP or the local health authority who will decide if a PCR test is needed.
How long is the 3G rule in place?
According to the federal government and states, the rule will be reviewed every four weeks.
Will it ever move to 2G?
It could. The government had discussed excluding unvaccinated people altogether (moving to 2G instead of 3G rules) if the infection rate rises but there were no firm decisions on this in the most recent round of talks.
It should be noted, however, that private organisations may decide to bar the unvaccinated.
For instance, FC Köln have decided to only allow people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.