Hamburg to tighten Covid measures from Christmas Eve

Hamburg is set to toughen its Covid rules from December 24th in a bid to prepare for the Omicron wave.

Chairs stacked at a restaurant in Hamburg.
Chairs stacked at a restaurant in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Reinhardt

The German government and state leaders were on Tuesday discussing new nationwide Covid measures which they propose could come into force on December 28th.

But the northern city state of Hamburg has announced it plans to tighten the rules from Christmas Eve to prepare for the expected fifth Covid wave.

From December 24th, 10 people will be allowed to meet in Hamburg and restaurants and bars will have a curfew of 11pm.

Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) said the aim was to try “to contain this spread as best we can”.

Here’s a glance at some of the planned measures in Hamburg:

– Contact restrictions for the vaccinated and recovered: up to 10 people will be allowed to meet in private (not including children under 14).

– Contact restrictions for the unvaccinated will continue: people who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated will still be only allowed to meet with people from their own household plus two people from another household.  

– Dance events will not be allowed (affecting nightclubs and similar venues).

– A curfew of 11pm will apply to restaurants, pubs, bars . On New Year’s Eve, the curfew is 1am.

– Major events will take place without an audience.

– From 3pm on December 31st until 9am on January 1st, there will be a ban on fireworks and firecrackers.

– During the same period, there is also a ban on gathering: a maximum of 10 people are allowed to meet or stand together in public spaces.

The Hamburg Senate said FFP2 masks are recommended in all indoor spaces – including under 2G conditions (in areas where only vaccinated and recovered people are allowed), as well as on public transport. 

According to social affairs senator Melanie Leonhard (SPD), there are currently hundreds of suspected Omicron cases and 28 confirmed Omicron cases in the Hanseatic city.

READ ALSO: Germany eyes limits on NYE parties to combat Omicron

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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?