Germany brings in nationwide ‘3G’ rules on public transport

From Wednesday, '3G' will apply on all public transport, meaning passengers will now have to show proof that they are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered from Covid (genesen) or have taken a negative test in the last 24 hours (getestet) in order to travel.

Munich's public transport company (MVG) inspectors check passengers' proof of vaccination.
Munich's public transport company (MVG) inspectors check passengers' proof of vaccination. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

The reform to the Infection Protection Law, which was passed on November 19th, comes into force on Wednesday, introducing sweeping measures to combat the Covid fourth wave.

READ ALSO: Germany passes law reform for sweeping Covid measures

For which means of transport does 3G apply and from when?

The 3G rule will apply on all public transport – local and long-distance – from Wednesday, November 24th. 

This means that national and suburban trains, buses and trams as well as buses and trains operated by private providers such as FlixBus will be affected. 

Exceptions will only be made for taxis and school buses, children under the age of six and schoolchildren who are tested at school.

How will passengers be checked?

The new law states that the carriers – for example, Deutsche Bahn or the local transport companies – are obliged to monitor compliance with the regulation by means of spot checks.

It is therefore up to the transport providers to decide how they will implement the controls. It’s likely that 3G proof will be checked together with tickets or, depending on the means of transport, when boarding.

Deutsche Bahn, for example, only wants to check 3G compliance on a random basis, and are planning checks on 400 long-distance connections in the first few days. FlixBus and FlixTrain have also announced that they will carry out random checks.

On local transport, area-wide checks are simply not feasible and 3G checks may be checked just as sporadically as tickets. Transport companies have to decide whether to burden inspectors with this additional task, or simply to carry out focussed checks together with the authorities, as has already been done to enforce the mask requirement.

Munich U-Bahn
Transport workers check people’s 3G passes at the entrace of a Munich U-Bahn station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

Munich’s MVG says its ticket inspectors will now also check 3G proof and the Hamburg transport association has also announced that 3G proof is to be randomly checked during ticket inspections.

Some larger transport companies have their own security services that can provide support. Berlin’s BVG, for example, wants to carry out checks with the help of its own security service as well as with the authorities.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Covid ‘3G’ rules could work on German public transport

What are the penalties?

The exact cost for breaking the 3G rule on public transport is not yet known, though according to the federal government’s website: “Anyone found without valid proof will face a fine of up to several thousand euros.”

As with other violations of the Infection Protection Act, each federal state will decide on the level of fines for itself. Non-compliance with the mask requirement, for example, will cost 150 euros in Bavaria and only 25 euros in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. If a train is traveling between federal states with different fine levels, then the guidelines of the federal state in which the violation is discovered will usually apply.

If passengers on a bus or train don’t want to show the 3G proof, inspectors can ask them to get off at the next station, as it is usually stated in the terms and conditions of transportation that passengers who endanger safety can be excluded from carriage. If a customer refuses to exit the mode of transportation, employees can call the police and police can initiate the fine procedure. 

Transport companies would also have the option of including 3G in their conditions of carriage. In this case, the employees themselves would be able to impose fines, as they do for riding without a ticket. This is what some companies, such as the Hamburg public transport association, have done with compulsory mask-wearing. In the case of municipal transport companies, however, it can take a while to change the conditions of carriage. 

The idea of including mandatory masks in transport conditions nationwide was rejected by the state transport ministers’ conference in September 2020, seeing fines as the responsibility of the police and the public order office.

This is presumably how most transport companies will see it with the 3G rule too, and leave it to spot checks together with the authorities. 

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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