Germany eyes limits on NYE parties to combat Omicron

Germany plans to limit private New Year's Eve parties to 10 people, a draft document showed Monday, as it tightens Covid restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of Omicron.

Broadcaster's ZDF's New Year show at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on January 1st 2021.
Broadcaster's ZDF's New Year show at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on January 1st 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

The proposed new rules will target the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike, though the government has ruled out a strict lockdown ahead of Christmas.

A government proposal shows that from December 28th, Berlin wants to close nightclubs and further reduce the number of people allowed at large events.

The text also proposes caps on private gatherings, with those who are vaccinated or recovered from Covid to be allowed to host just 10 people, a measure specifically aimed at New Year’s Eve revellers.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED – German leaders consider new restrictions to fight Omicron wave

Guests themselves must also have immunisation to the virus, the text says.

“New Year’s Eve celebrations with a large number of people are unjustifiable in the current situation,” reads the draft document.

Those who are unvaccinated can only mingle with a maximum of two other people.

Children under 14 would be excluded from the new rules.

The proposals will be discussed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states on Tuesday.

Germany has so far managed to slow a fierce fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the Delta variant, in part by ramping up booster vaccinations.

The country reported some 16,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, down from a peak of more than 75,000 in late November.

Fears are growing about a surge in cases fuelled by Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has quickly spurred new waves of infections
around the world.

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Germany to charge €3 for rapid Covid tests

Germany is set to end free rapid Covid tests for all from July. In future they will cost €3.

Germany to charge €3 for rapid Covid tests

Vulnerable groups, however, will still be able to get the tests, known as Bürgertests, free of charge under the plans.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said: “I will make no secret of the fact that I would have liked to have continued the free citizenship tests for all.”

However, Lauterbach said the taxpayer-funded testing strategy is costing an average of a billion euros per month.

“The truth is – unfortunately, we can’t afford that in the tight budget situation that awaits us in autumn,” he said. 

€3 contribution from July

The new testing regulations are to apply from the start of July.

The concept foresees expenditures of €2.7 billion by the end of the year. If the government had continued to offer free tests for all, the costs would have been around €5 billion.

The federal government also plans to reduce the amount that is given to the test centres per test – from the current €11.50 to €9.50.

In future, free rapid tests will continue to be available for vulnerable groups, including children up to five years of age, women at the beginning of pregnancy, and visitors to clinics and nursing homes.

The states will have the option of taking over the co-payment of €3 for other groups as well.

Lauterbach had previously spoken out in favour of continuing to provide free Covid tests for people with symptoms who suspect they have Covid, as well as before large events. 

READ ALSO: Germany to scrap free Covid tests for all 

Bürgertests should in future continue to be used specifically where they bring the greatest benefit,” said Lauterbach after the health ministers’ conference.

Lauterbach said he negotiated with Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner to come up with the new testing system. 

“The use of taxpayers’ money will become more effective, as not everything can be paid by the federal government in the long run, because our possibilities have reached their limits,” said Lindner. 

Autumn Covid wave

Lauterbach also warned of a severe Covid wave in autumn.

“A very difficult time lies ahead,” the Health Minister said. He said the health ministers across Germany would take a joint approach to tackling the pandemic.

READ ALSO: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan