Germany’s 16 states bring in uniform ‘Covid health pass’ system

Germany's 16 states bring in uniform 'Covid health pass' system
A sign for a restaurant in Leverkusen saying proof of vaccination, test or recovery is required. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg
In a bid to encourage vaccinations, and stave off the fourth wave, German states were tasked with bringing in an expanded 'Covid health pass' system. Here's what it looks like.

What is it and why do I need to know?

It may sound like we’re talking about technology, but Germany’s 3G system has nothing to do with the Internet. The 3G rule means that anyone entering most indoor spaces now has to be geimpft – vaccinated, genesen – recovered, and getestet – tested against Covid-19. It came into place across the 16 states on Monday August 23rd, although a few regions implemented it slightly earlier.

The federal and state governments agreed on the measure at the beginning of August. The aim of the nationwide 3G rule is to try and avoid future tough restrictions like lockdowns, and encourage more people to get vaccinated. 

Those who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid within the last six months need to show proof before unlocking most indoor activities, such as eating inside, going to the gym or to an event. 

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People who are eligible to get vaccinated but choose not to will need a negative test result. The federal government will cover the cost of the rapid tests for the time being but from October 11th, unvaccinated people will have to pay up to €20 (or more) per rapid test.

A patchwork version of this system was in place before this point, but it varied from state to state. It has now been formalised and widened out. 

You can read our explainer for more detail. 

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

Does it depend on the level of Covid infections?

The federal government and states agreed that the 3G rule would come into place when states reach 35 Covid cases per 100,000 people within seven days. 

But in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, the rule applies regardless of incidence.

In Brandenburg, the health pass system comes into place at 20 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, and in the rest of the country from an incidence of 35 new infections per 100,000 people.

READ ALSO: Why one German state is choosing to ignore the Covid incidence 

Will I face a fine if I don’t have any proof with me?

You probably won’t get in. On the whole, businesses are responsible for implementing the obligation to provide evidence and testing.

Restaurateurs, hairdressers and the operators of fitness studios, hospitals or nursing homes must check proof. If they fail to do so, they face a fine.

The amount is determined by the federal states. Baden-Württemberg, for example, charges restaurateurs up to €10,000 for “failing to comply with an obligation to check proof of testing, vaccination or recovery when operating a facility.” The “standard rate” is €650.

But guests can also be asked to pay. The municipalities and law enforcement officers can issue expulsions and warnings, but in the worst case scenario, charges can be brought. Anyone who violates infection protection laws and Covid regulations can expect fines of between €50 and €25,000. 

Where do I need to show proof?

The proof and test requirement applies when visiting someone in hospital, a nursing home or similar facility regardless of the incidence rate.

People also need it to go to the gym, hairdresser, beauty salon, museum, amusement park, zoo and inside bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes. The 3G rule is also implemented at events.

People won’t need to show proof to get takeaway coffee or food. But if you want to sit in and drink coffee, you’ll need it.

There may be slight differences from state to state so check local rules.

For instance, a court in Berlin ruled on Friday that the indoor area and dance ban in clubs should be overturned – but only for people who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid – effectively making it 2G instead of 3G. 

We could see more facilities or private providers moving to exclude unvaccinated people in future. 

Where do I not need proof?

At private meetings, family gatherings, at work, when shopping and in libraries no proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test is needed.

It also won’t apply to public or long-distance transport.

Are there exceptions?

Young children under the age of six and schoolchildren who are regularly tested are generally exempt from the 3G rule – but once again, familiarise yourself with the local rules in your area. 

If there’s a reason you can’t get the vaccine – or are not eligible for it – then you won’t be charged for tests after October 11th. You can get a letter from your doctor to that effect. 

What does it mean for tourists?

Tourists will also have to stick to the rules. Germany accepts vaccination certificates from other countries. But the vaccine must have been approved by the EU – currently Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen. 

You are counted as being fully vaccinated in Germany on the 15th day after your last dose. If you’ve had one jab after recovery that is also accepted as being fully vaccinated. Mix-match-vaccines – or Kreuzimpfung – is also accepted in Germany as long as the vaccines are approved by the EMA. 

READ ALSO: Covid mix-and-match vaccines: Why is it so common in Germany – and is it safe?


Member comments

  1. Greetings and thanks for this article very helpful. A question though, what are the mask requirements for store employees? My wife went to the hairdresser today and the employees were not wearing masks (so she didn’t stay). We live in Rhineland-Pfalz.

    1. Hi there! Thanks for your comment. Masks are still required on public transport and in shops (that would include hairdressers). There may be regional differences but I’m pretty sure masks are needed all over. Will look into it for you!

  2. Meanwhile, what “research” did you do to determine that the risk of vaccination for 12 year olds is higher than not having it?

    Maybe the UK JCVI should publish their data first to prove the safety of the vaccine for kids. They have not done so.

  3. I did not state that the risk of vaccination for 12 year olds is lower or higher, so I do not have evidence for it. My point is that health agencies are continuing to analyze the evidence for this age group. In the meantime, as I stated, we *do* know that a very significant majority of current infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are from the unvaccinated and they are putting us all and our children at risk.

  4. Of course breakthrough infections occur among the vaccinated population, but a very significant majority of current infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are from the unvaccinated and they are putting us all and our children at risk. Meanwhile, what “research” did you do to determine that the risk of vaccination for 12 year olds is higher than not having it? Please cite your evidence, because the health organizations are the ones in the process of determining this. In the meantime, the best way to protect our children is for all adults to get vaccinated and prevent the spread of the virus.

  5. Safe and effective? Are you serious? Just because the MSM are not reporting it does not mean people are not getting very ill and dying from it. Look at the UK Yellow card reporting scheme for further information. I should not need a vaccine in order to get a beer in a pub.

  6. Vaccination incentives and requirements are not new. Most countries require vaccines to enter schools, universities, and certain professions. So why do you suddenly need to catastrophize a policy that incentivizes vaccines and public health?

  7. What i am saying is their obsessive drive to get everyone vaccinated has nothing to do with health reasons. I mean why does a 12 year old need a vaccination when the risks of having the vaccination are higher than not having it? The reasons are to push for Vaccine passports and ultimately a Social ID Credit system.

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