Germany to impose sweeping new Covid curbs on the unvaccinated

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain the fourth wave of Covid-19, including closures of clubs in badly-hit areas and banning unvaccinated people from almost all parts of public life.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a Christmas tree in the chancellor's office.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a Christmas tree in the chancellor's office on November 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

“Culture and leisure nationwide will be open only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered (from Covid),” Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a meeting with the country’s regional leaders.

Merkel said the same rule – known as 2G in Germany – would also apply to the retail sector. It means that people who are eligible for vaccination but choose not to get it will be barred from entering non-essential shops across the country. 

There will also be contact restrictions ordered on the unvaccinated. 

Merkel added that clubs and discos would have to close in areas with a high Covid incidence.

The outgoing Chancellor also spoke out in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which parliament is due to vote on soon.

“Given the situation, I think it is appropriate to adopt compulsory vaccination,” she said.

Merkel, her designated successor Olaf Scholz and the leaders of 16 states tightened Covid restrictions just two weeks ago, but met again on Thursday to discuss tougher measures.

“You can see from the decisions that we have understood the situation is very serious,” Merkel said, adding that the measures should be seen as “minimum standards” and different regions could also impose their own tougher curbs.

She said there needed to be an “act of national solidarity” in Germany to reduce the number of infections.

READ ALSO: German leaders plan crackdown on unvaccinated to tackle surge

What else do we know about the rules?

Merkel said there would be nationwide restrictions for the unvaccinated. Private gatherings in public or private spaces involving unvaccinated people or those who haven’t recently recovered from Covid will have to be restricted to the person’s own household and no more than two people from another household.

Children up to the age of 14 are exempt.

2G rules for culture and retail

As we mentioned above, only people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from an infection will be allowed to enter shops and cultural and leisure events. The 2G rule, which is already in place in some states, is to be extended nationwide and will apply regardless of incidence. The rule would also apply in the retail sector, with the exception of shops for daily needs.

The unimmunised will also be banned from Christmas markets.

Clubs to shut 

Clubs and similar venues are to be closed in areas where the Covid incidence rises above 350 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

It is understood that, if the incidence exceeds this threshold, states can adopt stricter measures such as bar and restaurant closures, alcohol bans and restrictions on gatherings as well. 

Lockdowns possible

Following the scrapping of the ‘epidemic situation of national importance’ – a legislative clause that gave the states the power to implement lockdowns and other measures – the new government will amend the Infection Protection Act yet again to allow for future lockdowns.

This means that the current lockdowns in Saxony and Bavaria can continue beyond their current December 15th expiry date if necessary. 

Nationwide obligation to wear masks in schools

In schools, masks are to be compulsory for all grades – even in places where they have not been so far.

Pharmacists and dentists could give shots in future

The government and states want to see dentists, pharmacists and nursing staff be allowed to vaccinate against Covid.

Restrictions on major events

The number of spectators for sports, cultural and other major events will be significantly restricted. In future, a maximum of 30 to 50 percent of the seating capacity can be used. Indoor events can have a maximum of 5,000 visitors and outdoor events a maximum of 15,000.

Fireworks ban on New Year’s Eve

Like last year, the sale of firecrackers and fireworks on New Year’s Eve will be banned again this year in Germany. This is aimed at supporting emergency services and avoiding gatherings of large crowds. 

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.