SHARE
COPY LINK

POLITICS

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. 

READ ALSO:

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.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19 RULES

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”

READ ALSO:

SHOW COMMENTS