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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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.”