Germany to thrash out tougher Covid measures on Thursday

Political leaders are to bring forward planned Covid crisis talks by a week - and will decide on new restrictions aimed at taming the fourth wave.

A sign for Covid rules at a Christmas market in Frankfurt.
A sign for Covid rules at a Christmas market in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julia Cebella

A remote meeting was held on Tuesday between outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

However – as planned – no new restrictions have been announced. They will instead be decided on later this week at the State Premiers’ Minister Conference (MPK). This meeting is scheduled for Thursday instead of December 9th. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, political leaders discussed possible Covid measures, including mandatory vaccinations, in light of the drastic fourth wave that has seen intensive care units struggling in many parts of the country. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s next chancellor Scholz ‘backs compulsory vaccinations’

Other restrictions on the table include the closures of bars and clubs, and limiting large events.

Bavarian premier Markus Söder told reporters he expected Bundesliga football games to return to playing to empty stands, following an outcry over
a packed stadium in Cologne at the weekend.

“It’s clear that something needs to change when it comes to football,” Söder said.

Several hard-hit German regions, including Bavaria and Saxony, have already cancelled Christmas markets and barred the unvaccinated from public spaces like gyms and leisure facilities.

But critics say the patchwork of rules is confusing, and many are calling for nationwide rules. 

According to sources, Scholz told participants at the talks that he is in favour of barring the unvaccinated from more parts of public life, including non-essential retail.

Scholz said he also wanted to see 30 million Covid jabs administered to people in Germany by Christmas. He suggested that more professionals should be able to carry out jabs, such as dentists and vets, to get more vaccines into arms. 

It came after Germany’s highest court ruled that the ’emergency brake’ measures brought in earlier this year which included curfews and contact restrictions were lawful. 

There have been calls for the country to reintroduce the emergency brake to get a grip on the current situation.

READ ALSO: Will Germany bring in Covid ’emergency brake’ restrictions?

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Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

With the EU changing its Covid recommendations for flights, there is some confusion around whether people boarding a plane in Germany will still need to wear a mask. Here's what we know so far.

Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

As of Monday, the aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC no longer recommend mandatory Covid masks in airports and on planes.

However, if masks are compulsory at the point of departure or destination, this should continue to apply in aircraft as well, they say.

So, what does this mean for passengers boarding flights in Germany? At the moment, not very much at all. 

In Germany, the Infection Protection Act still stipulates that masks have to be worn on long-distance trains and planes. Masks are also compulsory on local public transport.

The previous weeks have seen Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) come out in favour of scrapping compulsory masks – especially on flights.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done to change the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

What are the current rules on flights? 

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, masks are compulsory on all flights taking off or landing in Germany.

FFP2 or medical masks must be worn when boarding and disembarking and throughout the flight, though they can be removed when eating and drinking.

Children under the age of six are exempt from the mask-wearing requirement. 

The ministry has argued that the obligation to wear masks also complies with the new EU recommendations. 

What are the rules acros the EU? 

In general, the relaxed EU recommendation does not mean that masks are no longer compulsory on all flights. However, many countries have kept this measure in place as a simple way to reduce infection. 

Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, published a list of 14 EU countries in which national laws continue to require the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid.

Besides Germany, popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are included on the list. 

In other EU countries, the airline said it would be dropping mandatory masks on flights, adding that it “welcomed” the relaxed recommendations from the EU health authorities.  

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?