Germany passes law reform for sweeping Covid measures

After a bitter standoff between the outgoing conservatives and the incoming government, Germany has signed off on a reform of infection protection laws which will introduce sweeping measures to combat the Covid fourth wave, such as 3G on public transport and in the workplace.

Dresden city centre in the early morning
Trams and cars pass through the heart of Dresden. Under the new law, passengers must carry proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test on public transport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Acting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU parties had originally threatened to block the legislation in the upper house of parliament, where the conservatives have a small majority.

After a round of talks between the federal and state governments on Thursday, however, it was agreed that the changes to the law introduced by the Social Democrats, Greens and the FDP – the so-called ‘traffic light’ coalition parties – would be voted through and then evaluated in three weeks to see if improvements were necessary.

The new legislation allows the so-called pandemic ’emergency powers’ to expire on November 25th. But it sets out wide-ranging tools for combatting the fourth wave, including the implementation of a national ‘3G’ rule in the workplace and on public transport.

According to the bill, people will have to show that they are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) or can supply a negative test (getestet) in order to work on-site or use both local and long-distance public transport.

These new 3G rules are likely to come in at workplaces and on public transport as early as November 24th. 

READ MORE: How 3G rules could work on public transport

The new law also envisions strict testing obligations for visitors and staff in nursing and care homes and harsh penalties for people who carry fake vaccination certificates or tests. However, it stops short of permitting future blanket closures of schools and businesses, and other tougher measures such as travel bans.

Instead, individual facilities with particularly high infections rates will be allowed to close, while states can also opt to introduce or tighten measures like compulsory masks and contact restrictions.  

The CSU/CSU have repeated claimed that the new toolbox of measures does not grant states enough powers to take necessary measures to fight the fourth wave.

Criticising the plans set forward by the ‘traffic light’ parties, North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Hendrik Wüst expressed concern that regional governments would no longer be able to order restaurants and bars to close if necessary. 

Speaking to ZDF on Thursday evening, he argued that the ‘epidemic situation of national importance’, which is a clause in German law that grants powers to governments to set Covid measures without consulting parliament, should be extended beyond November 25th.

The changes to the Infection Protection Act, which were voted through on Friday, are intended as a replacement – though critics such as outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel believe they do not go far enough.

Crisis talks 

In addition to the measures voted through by the Bundesrat on Friday, Germany is also set to introduce new curbs on the unvaccinated in the coming weeks. 

This was decided upon following crisis talks on Thursday between the federal and state governments, with input from the traffic light parties. 

According to the agreement, states will be obliged to introduce the ‘2G’ rule for most public venues such as bars and restaurants if the hospitalisation rate rises above three. This refers to the number of people hospitalised with Covid in a week per 100,000 people.

A 2G sign outside a Christmas Market
A sign outside a Stuttgart Christmas Market explains the operators’ ‘2G’ entry policy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Vanessa Reiber

If this figure then rises to more than six, vaccinated and recovered people will have to present an additional test in certain establishments such as discos, clubs and bars – a concept known as 2G plus. 

As of Thursday, the 2G plus rule would affect the states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria. However other states like Berlin are allegedly considering similar rules after recently introducing blanket 2G. 


The move marks a decisive step away from regulating on the basis on infection rates alone and towards clear thresholds for Covid hospitalisations. 

However, the president of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, argued that the hospitalisation rate was a poor reflection of the actual burden on hospitals – and said that clinics needed to be monitored more closely. 

A ‘Covid-19 radar’ for hospitals is long overdue, he told DPA. This would assess daily parameters such as the number of Covid patients, the number of Covid deaths, and the utilisation of wards and staff. 

In addition to the new 2G and 2G plus rules, the ordinance advocates for compulsory vaccination of medical and care professionals and strict testing rules in nursing homes. 

Member comments

  1. Cool, yet another set of rules that won’t be enforced or punished in Berlin. The German COVID strategy remains: make complicated rules no one understands and leave them to figure it out.

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‘Russia must not win this war,’ says Germany’s Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged once again to stand with Ukraine against Russia - but said Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up.

'Russia must not win this war,' says Germany's Scholz

Scholz said the war in Ukraine was the greatest crisis facing the EU in its history, but that solidarity was strong. 

“We are all united by one goal: Russia must not win this war, Ukraine must prevail,” Scholz said in the speech to the Bundestag on Thursday.

Putin thinks he can use bombs to dictate the terms for peace, the SPD politician said. 

“He’s wrong. He was wrong in judging the unity of Ukrainians, and the determination of our alliances. Russia will not dictate peace because the Ukrainians won’t accept it and we won’t accept it.”

Scholz said it was only when Putin understands that he cannot break Ukraine’s defence capability that he would “be prepared to seriously negotiate peace”.

For this, he said, it is important to strengthen Ukraine’s defences. 

Scholz also pledged to help cut Europe free from its reliance on Russian energy. 

The Chancellor welcomed the accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato. “With you at our side, Nato, Europe will become stronger and safer,” he said.

However, Scholz dampened expectations for Ukraine’s quick accession to the EU.

“There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership.

“The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years,” he said.

Scholz had in April called for Western Balkan countries’ efforts to join the EU to be accelerated amid a “new era” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last October, EU leaders at a summit in Slovenia only reiterated their “commitment to the enlargement process” in a statement that disappointed the six candidates for EU membership — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo – who had hoped for a concrete timetable.

“For years, they have been undertaking intensive reforms and preparing for accession,” Scholz said on Thursday.

“It is not only a question of our credibility that we keep our promises to them. Today more than ever, their integration is also in our strategic interest,” he said.

The chancellor said he would be attending the EU summit at the end of May “with the clear message that the Western Balkans belong in the European Union”.

Scholz also called for other ways to help Ukraine in the short term, saying the priority was to “concentrate on supporting Ukraine quickly and pragmatically”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also said it will take “decades” for a candidate like Ukraine to join the EU, and suggested building a broader political club beyond the bloc that could also include Britain.