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OPINION & ANALYSIS

How Germany’s 2G-plus Covid rules have left millions of people confused

Germany's 2G-plus regulations - meaning you have to be vaccinated/recovered and boosted or tested to get into most public places - have left millions of people unsure if they need a test or not, writes Rachel Loxton.

A sign on a restaurant in Dresden says entry is only for people who are vaccinated, recovered with a booster or a negative test.
A sign on a restaurant in Dresden says entry is only for people who are vaccinated, recovered with a booster or a negative test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

“Is it okay if I go deep into your nose?”

It’s a question I never imagined I’d be asked in my life, but it was even a bit surprising to hear as I sat down to get an antigen test in Berlin on Sunday after waiting in a long queue. 

“What do you mean?” I asked. 

The woman who was getting ready to test me for Covid-19 explained that inserting the swab further into the nose than usual is better for detecting the Omicron variant. 

It was my choice, but adopting the British overly-polite persona that I never seem to be able to shake off I obliged. As she advised me to breathe through my mouth, I let out a little yelp when it felt like she was tickling my brain. 

“That really was deep,” I laughed on my way out of the cubicle while the next person was already moving into the chair to get their nose inspected. 

Great, I thought. I might have to do this every time I go to a cafe, restaurant, bar or the cinema now. 

I say might because I’m not very sure. 

Germany’s new 2G-plus rules have left a lot of people suddenly unsure if they have to show an official negative test result to have coffee with a friend.

Under the 2G-plus restrictions, people have to be vaccinated/recovered and have their booster jab to get into many public places. If they don’t have a booster, they need a negative test. 

People who are unvaccinated can’t enter at all as was the case under the 2G rules (the Gs standing for geimpft (vaccinated) and genesen (recovered).

But there are lots of unclear points, not least the fact they are open to interpretation depending on the state and on the venue operator. 

A restaurant in Kronberg am Taunus, Hesse, advertises 2G-plus rules.

A restaurant in Kronberg am Taunus, Hesse, advertises 2G-plus rules. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last May during a community drive. I picked the J&J queue because it was shorter (people wanted the mRNA vaccine Moderna instead) and I liked the idea of it being a single dose. No queuing for another jab at a later date!

More than three million people in Germany have had J&J, including some vulnerable groups like people in temporary accommodation. 

Then German government advice, which surfaced in autumn, said that people who had J&J should get an mRNA jab. 

“Oh, we’re getting our booster jab earlier,” I told my friends who had J&J. In November I was “boosted” and felt pleased to have that shot out of the way. 

But as The Local has been reporting, the Health Ministry now says that the second mRNA shot was to optimise the basic immunisation, and was not a booster shot.

Authorities recommend a further jab (the real booster shot) three months after the second vaccine. 

To complicate matters further, states have different stances on that. Some do count J&J and another shot as being boosted, and some don’t. 

The general feedback seems to be that if you’ve had three ‘classic’ shots, there are no issues. But if you’ve had J&J or a Covid infection as well as being vaccinated, it gets more complicated. 

READ ALSO: 2G-plus: What people who’ve had the J&J jab in Germany need to know

Do I need a test or not?

Under the 2G-plus rules which came into force in Berlin on Saturday, I had no idea if I needed a test to get into places, but took it to be on the safe side so I wouldn’t be turned away from anywhere. 

At a Vietnamese restaurant in Kreuzberg I had to show my vaccination pass, negative test and photo ID (my passport). My friend was granted entry with his NHS digital vaccination pass showing three shots, plus his passport.

In another venue, I showed my vaccination pass and the barkeeper said I didn’t need to show a test. 

When I posted about the issues on Twitter, some people reported similar inconsistencies. 

One user said: “My understanding is that you don’t need a test, but a friend of mine yesterday was denied entry into a bar even if he had J&J + booster, so keine Ahnung (no idea).”

Another Twitter user who doesn’t fall neatly into the neat ‘three jabs’ category said: “We were jabbed twice and got Omicron recently. Denied entry last night.”

Some people said having J&J and an mRNA shot showed as 3/3 shots on their vaccination app, while others (including me) only have 2/2. 

My colleague, who also had J&J and another shot in November, said she didn’t need to show a test to visit a bar in north Berlin. 

Better communication 

The actual testing is not the problem – sticking a swab to the back of your mouth, up your nose and twirling it around has become a normal part of our pandemic routine along with sitting on the sofa watching too much TV. Getting regular tests is a good idea. 

But with the tightening and changing of rules, I almost feel like I’m being scolded for not having my “real booster” even though I’ve followed all the restrictions and orders the government has put in place. 

It also gave me an idea of what it must be like for people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons (and those who choose not to get vaccinated), and might have to get lots of tests. There are long waits at some test centres and a lot of brain tickling. 

For me the biggest problem is the lack of clear communication. I can understand why authorities want people to test more. But we need standardised rules throughout Germany (and in plenty of time before new restrictions come into force). And if rules change (like with J&J), we need to be informed, rather than having to search with difficulty for it.  

The restrictions also add more stress to visitors to Germany who might not have a digital vaccine passport. The German government still doesn’t allow people who don’t live in the country to get the EU digital pass, although some pharmacies do give it out. 

Germany needs to make it very clear who needs the test in the first place to make sure that testing facilities are available for those who need it most.

OPINION: The pandemic has revealed Germany’s deep obsession with rules and compliance

Member comments

  1. If you have received the J&J vaccine plus 1 extra mRNA jab your certificate should say 2/2. Once you have received the further dose after another 3 months you should then have a certificate that says 3/3.

  2. “But with the tightening and changing of rules, I almost feel like I’m being scolded for not having my “real booster” even though I’ve followed all the restrictions and orders the government has put in place. ”

    Congratulations to the author. In 3 months they’ll be classed as unvaccinated and can join the unvaccinated in lockdown”
    Following all these covid rules will only guarantee we stay with this world where the government can just take your freedom when they see fit. At a whim.
    But clutching all your documents and smart phone while hoping you don’t get turned away by some over zealous security guard that himself doesn’t know the rules, does sound like fun. Bit like a freedom lottery. Also, Feeling guilty while hoping a complete stranger might find you guilty of not keeping up with the dictats of the fourth reich.stinks of freedom.

  3. Concerned my CDC card (I’m vaxxed/boosted = 3 shots) will not be accepted as proof. Vaccinated visitors from the States have reported being denied entry to retail activities as some owners only accept EU digital pass and require those who have it to get tested.

    These archaic protocols only sow more confusion. Endless vaccines/boosters are clearly not working in promoting confidence to return to some semblance of normal life again.

  4. I had J&J, then a ‘booster’, then caught Covid (I’m just out of isolation). I don’t know whether or not it’s a health risk for me to now get another ‘booster’ so soon. Technically I don’t think I need it for protection against Covid, but I would need it to go to a restaurant… The rules and guidelines are not clear at all

    1. I would suggest that if you don’t think you need the booster. Don’t get it. Do your own research and make your own decision. From my understanding ( natural immunity is better than vaccination).
      I would not be getting a medical treatment so that I could go to a restaurant though.

  5. I don’t understand the logic behind the flat “everyone needs a booster” rule. It should be when you had your last shot. Why wouldn’t a freshly vaccinated person be able to do everything that a “boostered” person can do?

    1. That’s actually one of the rules here in NRW, where they’ve made things even more complicated. If you’re freshly vaccinated (less than 90 days ago) then you don’t need a booster shot or a negative test to be allowed into a 2G+ venue. Same applies for fully vaccinated people who have had covid in the last 90 days (but more than 28 days ago).
      I think it’s a fair way of doing things, but definitely makes the already complicated 2G+ rules even more complicated.

  6. So in Lower Saxony the Pub I visit can decide to follow the 2G or 2G+ rule. If they only allow 70% capacity then they can follow 2G rules, if they want to use 100% then they have to follow 2G+.
    The problem is you never know what system they are using until you turn up at the Pub.

  7. I was J + J’d in June, I had my booster today.

    I was slightly worried that the doctor said I may have to explain to people that as my app says 2/2, I am boosted. This worries me as a) I am not confident in my German enough to relay this to people and b) a cafe, club or museum visit may become complicated by somebody not understanding how the process works, and we know the people in Germany are pernickety over anything official.

    I wish my fellow 2/2ers the best of luck.

  8. I’ve decided its not worth going to eat out or hit the pool until this nonsense passes. I’m not going to boost my kids. If the vaccine doesn’t prevent infection (seems the case with Omicron) and children between 12-17 have virtually a 0% of getting sick enough to die or even hit the hospital, but have a better chance of having myocarditis, why are we pushing boosters on kids? I got them both vaccinated as the science at the time seem to imply they wouldn’t get infected or infect others. I got my booster as did others in my office. Nonetheless, 2/3 tested positive for COVID last week. Most had no symptoms or very mild ones. Less than a standard cold. Kids vaccinated, tested 3 days a week, and STILL have to wear a mask every day ALL day. When will this madness stop?

  9. Echoes from history. ‘Trust us, we’re the Government. It’s for the greater good.’ Somebody needs to point out to the German Govt ( and it clearly won’t be the EU ) that a democracy is more than just a voting system. A lot more. For one thing , it means Government operating by consent and persuasion. It may be slower, messier and less certain than diktat but that’s democracy.

  10. What I find frustrating is that Germany is (yet again) behind the curve on the science when it comes to getting boosters after an infection. The US CDC and Australia DoH say that people should get boosted as soon as they are symptom-free post-infection. However, Germany still does not let us get boosted until 3 months after infection. So that means for 3 months, more visits to test centers (where we continue to expose ourselves to potentially infected/contagious individuals) as well as coughing up 20€ per extra rapid test in a week if we want to be 2G+ compliant. Is it any surprise that the populous is confused, frustrated and pushing back against everything the government is telling us?

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

Why the Greens are the real winners of Germany’s state elections

German state elections don't tell us everything about the public mood, but the past few votes have revealed some pretty clear winners and losers. While support for the SPD is flagging, the Greens are growing in stature by the day, writes Brian Melican.

Why the Greens are the real winners of Germany's state elections

It’s one of the peculiarities of Germany’s federal system that we’re almost never more than six months away from an election being held somewhere. Alongside the national elections (Bundestagswahl) usually every four years, each of the 16 states also hold ballots (Landtagswahl) on varying cycles; then there are local and mayoral elections, too. As such, rolling campaigning and more-or-less continuous election analysis are a part of life here: “What does Election X say about Government Y?” is a question you will always hear being asked somewhere.

Nevertheless, regional elections have a habit of clustering – and generally come at points when national governments would rather not have people poring over electoral data. And this year, after barely six months in office, Olaf Scholz’ novel tri-partite traffic-light coalition has already been faced with three regional elections – in Saarland (27th March), last week in Schleswig-Holstein (8th May), and yesterday in North-Rhine Westphalia (15th May). On a regional level, the popularity of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has already been thoroughly tested. 

Understanding state elections

The key thing to remember about German regional elections are that they both are and aren’t about national politics. Firstly, here’s how they aren’t. At a basic level, these regional elections are simply about voters choosing a government to deal with state-level remits (mainly health, education, and housing). They will vote first and foremost on these issues.

Personality politics are also important: long-serving German state premiers frequently garner the unofficial honorific Landesvater or Landesmutter –  literally: ‘father/mother of the state’ – and benefit from high personal approval ratings, allowing them to withstand changes in mood at national level. So it is by no means infrequent for voters to return completely different parties in regional than at national elections. By way of example, while Olaf Scholz, SPD, remained a popular Landesvater figure in Hamburg, Merkel’s CDU still won more Hamburg votes at national elections.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Sunday’s state parliament vote in NRW is important for German politics

Then again, regional elections also are about national politics. That’s because they never take place in a vacuum (except for in Bavaria, of course, where everyone always votes CSU). Even the most beloved of state premiers faces an uphill struggle if their party is currently making a hash of things in Berlin. What is more, the larger and the more representative the Bundesland, the more results of its elections can show swings in voter mood which may be of national relevance.

The Greens’ slow ascent from their mid-2000s funk to their current swagger began in Baden-Württemberg: winning control of this state populated by 11 million people and many of Germany’s top industrialists showed that voters trusted them to be part of a government. That set the ball rolling and by the time of last year’s national election, the Greens were already in power in half of federal states. Incidentally, it is often overlooked that state governments make up the Bundesrat, the second chamber of parliament, which can accept or refuse laws made by the Bundestag. So shifts in power here can be of national relevance.

This dichotomy has the predictable effect that, in the aftermath of every Landtagswahl, the losing parties usually claim that it was simply a regional ballot with nothing to say about national politics while the winning parties play up the significance at federal level.

Olaf Scholz and Thomas Kutschaty

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) congratulates Thomas Kutschaty, SPD candidate in North Rhine-Westphalia, after the party wins 26.7 percent of the vote. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

An SPD disaster 

This is why it is very bad news for Olaf Scholz and the SPD that their only victory in spring 2022’s three Landtagswahlen was in dinky little Saarland, a state whose population is smaller than that of a major city like Cologne and whose local politics are so marked by rivalries and infighting as to have little-to-no relevance nationally. Despite winning an absolute majority in the regional parliament at Saarbrücken (a rare feat in proportional representation), there was no way the SPD could claim a national bearing – and, to its credit, didn’t try to do so either.

In Schleswig-Holstein, the SPD wasn’t expected to unseat the CDU’s Daniel Günther, a likeable and well-liked premier coming to the end of five years at the helm of a surprisingly successful Jamaica coalition with the Greens and the FDP. Here, too, the national relevance was relatively low: Schleswig-Holstein has only 3 million inhabitants and few large towns and cities. Nevertheless, losing over half its seats while the Greens and CDU gained by the same amount was not a good result for the SPD.

What was disastrous, however, was last night’s result in North-Rhine Westphalia. With a population the size of the neighbouring Netherlands (17 million) and everything from Germany’s largest urban conurbation down to isolated mountain regions, NRW is often considered a microcosm of the country as a whole. As something of a swing state, parties which succeed here often go on to win the next national election (if they aren’t already in government).

READ ALSO:

What is more, unlike in Schleswig-Holstein, NRW was the SDP’s to win. Until last year, its premier was the luckless Armin Laschet (remember him?), who plumbed popularity depths in his failed bid to become Chancellor. He then left a badly-damaged CDU-FDP administration to Hendrik Wüst, a successor whose profile, if he had one at all, was defined by various low-level corruption scandals (including a regrettable incident where he sold slots with the then-NRW premier, Jürgen Rüttgers, to high-paying commercial lobbyists…).

Hendrik Wüst (CDU)

Re-elected NRW state premier Hendrik Wüst (CDU) celebrates his victory. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

Even if Wüst proved to be an unexpectedly good campaigner and the SPD’s Thomas Kutschaty remained oddly faceless, the fact that Olaf Scholz himself got involved and that the SPD still ended up with its worst showing in NRW ever is nothing less than a serious defeat for both the Chancellor and his party – one which, in my view, underlines how Scholz has not yet lived up to expectations.

Nevertheless, he is in luck. Firstly, the electoral cycle means that this upset is occurring at the beginning of his term; there will be time to recover. Secondly, although Wüst gets first crack at forming a government, the Greens are his only real potential partner – and will take a lot of courting. NRW Greens are on the more left-wing end of the spectrum and will play the field, potentially trying to usher in a mini traffic-light coalition in Düsseldorf if it looks feasible later.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Scholz is already out of step with Germany – it’s time for a change of course

Growing support for Greens

So after the post-Merkel rout, the CDU has scored an important and much-needed victory, but harnessing it to get momentum nationally may yet prove difficult. Indeed, it’s the Greens who have come out of the last two weekends with a new swing in their step. Following a disappointing national election last year, they have once again hit their stride, due in no small part to the Ukraine reminding voters of why renewable energy is important on the one hand and the impressive figures cut by Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock in government on the other.

For the FDP, things are not looking so good. Despite negotiating a disproportionately high amount of their manifesto into last year’s agreement, they are suffering the fate of many a junior coalition partner: a lack of profile. On strictly regional terms, they lost votes to the popular Daniel Günther in Schleswig-Holstein (perhaps unavoidably, despite a good record as part of his coalition) and to the not-yet-popular Hendrik Wüst (following lacklustre performance in government in Düsseldorf).

Greens party posters NRW

Posters featuring Greens candidate Mona Neubaur highlight the link between fossil fuels and Russia’s authoritarian leadership. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roberto Pfeil

Worryingly for Christian Lindner, however, this may be harbinger of history repeating itself. Essentially, FDP voters tend to get enthusiastic for a business-friendly go-getter type who promises to lower taxes and slash regulation, only to later turn their back on him when, once part of a coalition government, he proves unable to deliver the small-state free-for-all promised. That’s what happened to Guido Westerwelle in the 2009-2013 administration, in any case.

There is, however, one bit of unadulterated good news for all parties and indeed our country as a whole: the AfD lost vote share everywhere. The populist outfit didn’t even make it into parliament in Schleswig-Holstein and only just scraped in in NRW. It would seem that, in times of crisis, voters don’t want to add to the list of potential disasters by putting populists anywhere near power. This is a hypothesis we’ll be able to test in just under six months’ time, by the way, when Lower-Saxony goes to the polls on 9th October. 

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