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EXPLAINED: What are the Covid health pass rules across German states?

More German states are giving the option to businesses to exclude unvaccinated people from indoor spaces. Other states are sticking to the 3G rule for now. Here's an overview of the restrictions.

EXPLAINED: What are the Covid health pass rules across German states?
Customers showing evidence of their vaccination in Munich at the end of August. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

What’s the overall picture?

In August, Germany formalised its version of a Covid health pass entry system – known as the 3G rules. That means that lots of public places – like restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms, can only allow entry to people who are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered from Covid (genesen) or have tested negatively against Covid (gestestet).

Yet some states have been giving businesses and organisations the option to get rid of the ‘tested’ option altogether, effectively barring the unvaccinated.

READ ALSO: Barring the unvaccinated from public places ‘would cost less than a lockdown’

Hamburg was the first state to introduce this model, known as 2G (vaccinated and recovered) in Germany. The concept has faced criticism though due to the fact that it excludes people who have either chosen not to be vaccinated or have not been able to receive a vaccination due to health concerns, or because they are not eligible yet. The 2G model cannot be introduced for essential services, such as in the retail sector, in health settings or on public transport. 

Some other states are now following suit, though they are interpreting the rules with varying degrees of strictness.

It comes as vaccinations have stalled in Germany, leading authorities to launch a fresh jab campaign, offering easy-to-access shots in communities – from kebab shops to the zoo.  

READ ALSO: Germany launches ‘vaccination week’ in bid to boost jab uptake

The number of Covid infections and hospital admissions have also been rising, though the 7-day incidence of Covid cases has fallen slightly in recent days. 

On Wednesday, Germany reported 12,455 new Covid infections in 24 hours and 83 deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 77.9 Covid infections per 100,000 people, down from 81.1 the previous day. 

Experts fear that Germany will not achieve high enough vaccination coverage to get through the fourth wave in autumn and winter. As it stands, about 66.7 percent of the population has received at least one jab and 62.4 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Here’s the state of play across Germany:


From Thursday, Baden-Württemberg will have a multi-stage warning system based on the occupancy of intensive care beds. In the first stage, for example, unvaccinated people will only have access to certain public areas with a negative PCR test. In the second stage if things get worse, the 2G model would come into force – meaning that unvaccinated people would no longer have access to restaurants, cultural and sporting events, among other things.


Rhineland-Palatinate has introduced a Covid traffic-light system with three warning levels based on infection incidence, hospitalisation rates and intensive care unit occupancy. Since Sunday, the ‘2G+ model’ has been in effect in the state. It means gatherings with an unlimited number of people are allowed for those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered, plus a certain number of unvaccinated people who’ve been tested against Covid. There are no plans for future lockdowns. However, if there are rising incidence rates, unvaccinated people would no longer have access to events and hospitality venues, depending on the traffic light level.


In Schleswig-Holstein, the situation is similar to that in Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. State premier Daniel Günther (CDU) made it clear that should the situation in hospitals come to a head again, the rules would be tightened. In this case, 2G rules would be introduced with the option of 3G.

A sign in Frankfurt showing entry is allowed for people who are vaccinated, recovered, or tested. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert


The Berlin Senate has decided to introduce a 2G option model, which is expected to come into force on Saturday. In several sectors, such as restaurants or events, operators will then be able to decide for themselves whether to allow access to indoor areas only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered (2G) or also to those who have been tested (3G). In the case of 2G, previous Covid restrictions such as keeping distance or mask wearing, can be dropped.

Health senator Dilek Kalayci said Tuesday that there would be no exceptions for people who are not eligible to be vaccinated under the 2G rules. 


Hesse’s state premier Volker Bouffier (CDU) said in Wiesbaden that Covid is increasingly developing into a pandemic of the unvaccinated. “That’s why the restrictions that continue to be necessary primarily affect them, while the vaccinated and recovered are less affected,” he said. In addition to the mandatory 3G rule in many indoor areas, Hesse – like Hamburg and Berlin – is therefore also introducing an optional 2G model starting this Thursday, so that event organisers and restaurateurs have the choice of allowing in only the vaccinated and the recovered. Mask and distance rules will not apply when the 2G rule is in force. 

READ ALSO: Covid health pass – what could Germany learn from France?

Lower Saxony

In Lower Saxony, the 2G model has so far only applied in discos, clubs and bars. Now it is to be extended and in future will also apply in the catering trade, culture, events and sport if organisers choose to do so. This move was announced by state premier Stephan Weil (SPD) on Tuesday in the state parliament in Hanover. When applying the 2G rule, the mask requirement and distance rule can be dropped.


Saxony also wants to introduce 2G as an option model, according to the state chancellery. This is to be possible for restaurants, facilities or events of up to 5,000 people, if the organiser decides.


Saxony-Anhalt is also introducing the 2G option model. If operators decide to admit only vaccinated people, recovered people and children up to 18, mask requirements, distance rules and capacity restrictions can be dropped, said social minister Petra Grimm-Benne (SPD).


Bavaria already has a “hospital traffic light” system in place, which assesses the situation. The 2G model – excluding the unvaccinated from many public places – is “theoretically possible and not prohibited, but not proposed by the state,” state premier Markus Söder (CSU) has said.


In Brandenburg, talks are underway about the introduction of a 2G rule. but nothing has been decided there yet.


In Thuringia, the ministry of health is considering the introduction of a 2G rule for certain areas.

Bremen, Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

The city-state of Bremen, which currently has the highest Covid infection rates in the country, has extended the current Covid rules until October 11th, while the 3G rule remains in place.

If the pandemic situation worsens in the coming months, Saarland’s state premier Tobias Hans (CDU) says he is not ruling out “2G rules,” but at the moment he sees no need for them.

In August, North Rhine-Westphalia’s state premier Armin Laschet, who’s also a chancellor candidate for the upcoming election, stressed that the 2G rule is not out of the question for the state.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s state premier Manuela Schwesig (SPD) does not want to introduce a 2G rule at the moment: “I think we have to continue to rely on 3G,” she said. 

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now