Germany agrees tougher Covid restrictions from December 28th

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz outlined new Covid restrictions to come into force after Christmas, including a cap on the number of people who can socialise and the closure of nightclubs.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks after the meeting on Tuesday.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks after the meeting on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Following a meeting with German state leaders on Tuesday, Chancellor Scholz announced contact restrictions would also affect people who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.

He said private gatherings would be limited to 10 people from December 28th. Children under 14 are not included. 

The contact restrictions already in force for the unvaccinated will remain. People who choose not to get vaccinated are allowed to meet with their own household and a max of two people from another household.

“This is not the time for parties and cosy evenings with lots of people,” Scholz said, adding: “I would have liked to share more pleasant news just before the holidays.”

Meanwhile, Germany will ban spectators from large sporting and cultural events also from December 28th. “This applies in particular to football games,” Scholz added.

Nightclubs and discos will also have to close.  As agreed at a previous round of talks earlier in December, the sale of fireworks for New Year’s Eve will be banned.

The measures agreed match those put forward in the draft proposals from Monday. 

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

Chancellor Scholz said the measures already put in place in Germany – such as the nationwide restrictions on the unvaccinated – have been successful, and that is shown by the falling number of Covid infections.

But he said said there was a new challenge in the form of the Omicron variant. 

Scholz said the aim was to “prepare Germany for the next corona wave”. 

He said he understood people who don’t want to hear anything more “about corona, about mutations and new virus variants. But we cannot and must not close our eyes to the wave that is about to come.”

Scholz added: “Even those who have been vaccinated twice and those who have recovered run a high risk of becoming infected.”

Earlier in the day, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had called for tougher measures, including contact restrictions and the closure of restaurants, bars and clubs, to be introduced “immediately”. 

But the government and state leaders have gone against this call. 

Scholz said past experience had shown events like Christmas and Easter were not proven to be pandemic drivers, and that is why restrictions would come into force after Christmas. 

He said people in Germany could enjoy the holiday season with caution and regular Covid testing.

However, states can choose to go further than the restrictions agreed at the federal level. The city state of Hamburg earlier on Tuesday announced it was to bring in Covid restrictions from December 24th. 

Scholz said vaccination “remains our goal” so that as many people as possible are protected from Omicron. He said Germany’s target was to reach a vaccination rate of 80 percent. As of Tuesday, 70.4 percent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated.

The next round of federal and state talks is scheduled to take place at the beginning of January.

READ ALSO: Germany’s vaccine panel recommends booster shots after three months

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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?