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Can tourists and visitors to Germany get the digital vaccine certificate?

As winter approaches and the Covid entry rules to public places get stricter, there are still question marks over whether tourists can get Germany's digital Covid health pass. We found out the latest information.

A bar in Dresden shows the sign for 3G entry to shows, and 2G entry (excluding unvaccinated people) to after shows.
A bar in Dresden shows the sign for 3G entry to shows, and 2G entry (excluding unvaccinated people) to the after shows. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

People in Germany have to show their vaccine certificate, proof of Covid recovery or a negative Covid-19 test (known as the 3G rules) to enter most public indoor spaces, like restaurants, cinemas, shows or events.

Readers of The Local regularly ask us how this system affects tourists or people visiting the country. Can these groups of people access the EU digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate in Germany?

It’s no wonder that people are unsure about the rules – they are not very clear. We looked at the latest information and contacted the Health Ministry to find out the latest on the situation. 

First of all – do I need to be vaccinated to visit Germany?

This depends on where you are coming from. Germany has different travel rules in place depending on the origin country. In general, if you are coming from a non-EU country, you have to be vaccinated (there are exceptions for children under 12). 

If you’re coming from an EU country – or a so-called safe country – then you don’t necessarily have to be vaccinated. 

But anyone entering the country – regardless of the method of transport – has to have proof of either a vaccination certificate, recovery of Covid or a negative Covid test. 

For the vaccination proof, the German government says: “The EU Digital Covid Certificate or comparable proof of vaccination in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish must be presented upon entry.”

This is usually asked for before boarding a flight. There may be spot checks if you’re driving to Germany, although readers report that it doesn’t happen often. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Covid tests when visiting Germany 

Do you need a digital vaccination certificate?

Not for entry into Germany. The German government says the vaccination certificate can be in paper or digital form. But it must be a vaccine approved in the EU (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson and Johnson), and include details such as your name and date of birth.

But some states may require a digital certificate when entering public indoor spaces. 

For instance, in Berlin, since the end of September, people now have to show digital proof that can be verified when they enter 2G spaces. 2G entry is only for vaccinated (geimpft) and recovered people (genesen). Under these rules unvaccinated people are generally not allowed to enter. 

Those without a smartphone can present the QR code printed out for their digital vaccination certificate.

It is aimed at helping “prevent falsification and create standardisation,” the Berlin Senate said.

In Berlin, event organisers or restaurant owners can decide for themselves whether to allow only vaccinated or recovered people (2G) or also tested people (3G). 

Several other states, including Hamburg, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Saxony, Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg, also have the 2G option. Always check local regulations as rules can change. 

What’s the EU Covid vaccination certificate in Germany?

Germany launched its version of the EU digital vaccination certificate in June.

People who are fully inoculated can go to a pharmacy with evidence of their vaccination and photo ID and receive the digital vaccine pass (known in Germany as the Impfpass or Impfnachweis).

The EU digital vaccination certificate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner

It comes in the form of a QR code printed on paper that can be scanned onto an app in your smartphone. The paper document with the code on it can also be used for scanning if people do not have a smartphone. 

Those who want the digital certificate can upload it to a phone – either in the CovPass app or the Corona Warn app. People are counted as fully vaccinated in Germany two weeks after the last jab. 

READ ALSO: ‘Makes life easier’: What foreigners in Germany think about the new digital vaccine pass

Those vaccinated in a centre or at a doctor’s clinic may receive the QR code from the medics there. But if not, lots of pharmacies are now giving out the digital passes. 

People who’ve had Covid and one jab can also get the certificate. 

READ ALSO: How to get your digital Covid vaccine pass in Germany for EU travel

Can people visiting Germany get this digital certificate?

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. The official line from the German government is that to get the Covid-19 vaccine certificate, you need to have a point of contact with Germany. For instance if you live or work in Germany. 

A Health Ministry spokesman told us: “In principle, the issuance of a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate of the EU (digital covid certificate or DCC) requires a point of contact (see § 1 paragraph 1 of the Coronavirus Vaccination Ordinance) in Germany.

“This is the case, for example, if persons have health insurance or are resident in Germany, but also persons who work in Germany but live abroad can subsequently claim a digital Covid vaccination certificate free of charge,” said the spokesman.

This would also apply to students studying in Germany.

In these cases you can show proof of your vaccination – even if you weren’t vaccinated in Germany. 

For those in the EU who don’t have a base in Germany – for instance if you are just coming to Germany on holiday from Spain – the government says you should get the digital certificate issued in your home country.

“Tourists from other EU countries who do not have any of the above-mentioned criteria are recommended to have the DCC issued in their home country before departure,” said the Health Ministry spokesman. 

For non-EU citizens it gets even more confusing. The government says the laws around if a non-EU tourist in Germany can get the digital EU vaccination are still being figured out.

“The conditions under which DCCs are also issued to third-country nationals who are not entitled to vaccination in Germany under German law are currently being clarified,” said the spokesman. 

So what can I take from this?

The topic of Covid health passes to enter areas will get more important in the winter months when most activities move indoors.

If you don’t have a digital vaccination certificate from your home country, it may be no problem at all. But, as we mentioned above, some places like Berlin are looking for a verifiable QR code rather than a paper version. Although this can vary from business to business. 

One thing that many readers have told us is that pharmacies have offered the digital vaccination pass when they show proof of vaccination. So it is possible to go to a pharmacy and ask if they will change it. There’s no guarantee that they will, but it might be worth asking.

READ ALSO: How I got Germany’s new digital CovPass with my US vaccination certificate

Member comments

  1. My wife and I were able to get the Swiss COVID certificate which appears to be accepted in Germany as well. We will find out in a couple of months!

  2. We had problems in the beginning, but had no problems later as Americans getting the certificates. The only consistent problem we noticed is the German typing in the wrong dates for the vaccines. Even if you told them that the CDC cards use the American standard date order of M-D-Y, they typically reversed it unless it was obvious the month couldn’t be 13-31. As a consequence, the Germans think I’ve been vaccinated 3 months longer than I have. So far, it isn’t an issue until boosters are required. Several pharmacists have told me just tp come in and get new certificates since there is no records kept, so they can’t simply update it. The apps to show the certificates also take some work to download if you have your app store registered outside Europe.

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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