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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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

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

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now