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Why one German state is choosing to ignore the Covid incidence

Why one German state is choosing to ignore the Covid incidence
A large tent houses a Covid test centre in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemburg. The state has chosen to introduce a blanket '3G' rule, regardless of incidence. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weissbrod
The southwestern state of Baden-Württemburg has become the first German state to move away from the 7-day incidence of Covid infections when setting its rules. But what does that mean for residents?

When Angela Merkel met with the 16 leaders of the German states last week, the goal was to set a clear and unified agenda for the coming weeks.

Above all, lawmakers were keen to avoid a confusing patchwork scenario where someone crossing a state border – say, from Saxony to Saxony-Anhalt – would suddenly be subject to an entirely different set of rules.

The solution? To formalise a national health pass system that could allow people to enjoy their normal lives on the condition that they could present proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s new ‘3G’ Covid health pass rules

In the days that followed, however, it quickly became clear that the new rules had left a fair bit of room for interpretation.

Though the federal government has been advising a slow roll-out of the health pass system, the southwestern state of Baden-Württemburg went all in on Monday as it became one of the first states to put the new rules into action.

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The ‘3G’ rule holds – regardless of incidence 

From this week, the ‘3G’ rule – which stands for geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) or getested – has been rolled out far and wide. Now, residents of and visitors to the southern state will need to present their proof of vaccination, recovery or their negative test results at almost all public events and venues. 

This is in marked contrast to the phased introduction of ‘3G’ recommended by the Ministry of Social Affairs: beyond hospitality and gyms, health pass rules will apply everywhere from mini-golf courses to music schools.

In a significant move away from previous policy, the state has also said that the 3G system will be kept in place regardless of the Covid incidence.

Until recently, most states in Germany have opted for a colour-coded system where different rules are introduced – or scrapped – depending on the infection rates. For example, at weekly Covid incidences of more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in a certain area, tests and contact restrictions could be needed in cinemas, but these rules could be dispensed with once the infection rates start to drop.


The ‘3G’ health pass rule will replace the dependence on the 7-day incidence. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

In a press release announcing the changes, Baden-Württemberg said it wanted to ensure that the same rules applied across all regions and cities. 

“This simplifies Baden-Württemberg’s regulations, as they now apply uniformly throughout the state again,” it explained.

According to the governing coalition, this is just the start of the shift away from the 7-day incidence: this once crucial marker will no longer “appear as a regulatory instrument” in future, they said. 

But not everyone will be happy with the move – especially those who have chosen not to get jabbed and must now face the prospect of regular Covid tests in order to enjoy leisure activities, eating out, or holidays in the picturesque state. 

Antigen or PCR?

Severing the cord of the 7-day incidence is not the only way that Baden-Württemburg has carved out its own style of Covid regulations for autumn. 

The state will also be tightening the rules on the unvaccinated so that, in some cases, people who don’t want a Covid shot will have to present a more accurate (and expensive) PCR test to enter a venue.

The rule – which applies to nightclubs, among other places – means that people without proof of vaccination or recovery will have to pay out of their own pocket for a PCR test at their doctor’s surgery or local testing centre.

Depending on the provider and how quickly the results are returned, this cost of this type of test can range from around €40 to more than €100.

READ ALSO: Four things to know about Germany’s paid-for Covid tests

On October 11th, Germany plans to get rid of its taxpayer-funded antigen tests and will instead make people who choose not to get vaccinated bear the costs themselves. 

With its rules around PCR tests, however, Baden-Württemburg is essentially bringing paid-for tests forward by a number of weeks – since PCR tests are only free for people who have Covid symptoms.

The move is being seen as a template for other states, with other states, such as Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, also following in Baden-Württemburg’s footsteps. 

Complaints from club owners

As the health pass system is introduced, club owners consider themselves to be among the most affected by the new rules.

According to the latest legislation, clubbers will need to wear a medical mask at all times inside the venue, including on the dance floor – though they are allowed to remove it momentarily to take a brief slurp of their drink.

Responding to the news, the state’s club owners questioned the practicalities of enforcing the rules in a packed-out club throughout the night.


Club owners have questioned how they can enforce the mask-wearing rule among guests in the early hours of the morning. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Alberto Pezzali

Colyn Heinze of Club Kollektiv, the Stuttgart scene’s lobby group, told Welt that Baden-Württemberg was trying to present itself as a “defender of freedom” as the first federal state to abandon the incidence limit. However, a review of the small print painted a different picture, he said.

Also speaking to Welt, Alexander Scholz from the club Perkins Park claimed that that the mask-wearing rule would be impossible to enforce, since nobody could afford employ so many police officers or bouncers. 

Since there are no restrictions at all on private gatherings in the state, people would simply choose to organise their own parties, he added.

Other states could follow suit

Baden-Württemberg may be the first state to have moved away from the 7-day incidence of infections, but it’s unlikely to be the last. 

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

As states prepare and pass their legislation in the run up to the August 23rd deadline when the health pass will be introduced nationwide, neighbouring states like Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia look likely to follow Baden-Württemberg’s lead – and others could join them over the coming weeks. 


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