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COVID-19

Millions of Germans no longer considered ‘fully vaccinated’ on public transport

People who've had the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine could find themselves on the wrong side of '3G' rules this week as public transport operators say they will no longer be counted as fully vaccinated.

ICE train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof
Passengers enter an ICE train at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test is needed to travel on trains in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

The change comes on the back of changes to the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ under German law.

Guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute and Ministry of Health now states that people who’ve had a shot of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) now require a second shot of either J&J an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech in order to be considered fully vaccinated. 

Previously, J&J had been the only Covid vaccine to require just one dose – rather than two – for full vaccination protection. 

READ ALSO: Are people who’ve had the single J&J jab no longer fully vaccinated in Germany?

Speaking to The Local on Tuesday, a spokesperson for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn confirmed that people who’ve had just one shot of J&J would need a negative test in order to travel on their trains in future.

“Unless passengers have been vaccinated or have recovered, they must carry proof of a negative Covid test,” the spokesperson said.

The definition of ‘vaccinated’ is based on guidance from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which currently states that two shots are needed for full inoculation with J&J, the spokesperson confirmed.

“We are still in constant contact with the federal and state ministries and authorities regarding Covid,” they said. “The authorities are constantly adapting the pandemic response to the current situation – also in the area of mobility. We follow and implement these regulations.”

Since November 24th, the so-called ‘3G’ rule has applied on public transport, meaning customers should carry proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test in order to travel. 

If customers don’t have at least one of these documents with them, they are generally asked to leave the train at the next station and can also be hit with fines. 

READ ALSO: Germany brings in nationwide ‘3G’ rules on public transport

‘A scandal’ 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has faced harsh criticism for the sudden rule-change, which was described by German newspaper Welt as a “scandal”. 

“By shifting the information online, hundreds of thousands of people were downgraded overnight to unvaccinated without their knowledge and de facto excluded from public life until they received their (second) vaccination,” wrote Welt commentator Benjamin Stibi. 

Question marks remain about how quickly the new rules will be implemented by the states in other areas of public life where access is restricted to people who are fully vaccinated or recovered.

This includes the majority of indoor public spaces, such as non-essential shops, cinemas and gyms. 

Meanwhile, in hospitality businesses like bars, cafes and restaurants, fully vaccinated people require a negative test or a booster jab for entry. 

This means that those who have had a second jab after Johnson & Johnson – a dose that was previously considered a booster – could now require a negative test to eat out or meet friends for drinks.

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

The rule change is also likely to have an impact on people who work on-site, as a ‘3G’ rule (vaccination, recovery or test) applies in the workplace.

It could also impact people travelling into Germany with one dose of J&J who may no longer be seen as fully vaccinated. The Local has contacted the Health Ministry for clarification on this point and we’ll updated you when we receive an answer.

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 5.3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson have been given out in Germany since the start of the pandemic.

The country is expecting a delivery of a further 18 million doses this year. 

Member comments

  1. I am confused about this: I received J&J in April then a booster in December and am not eligible for another booster until March. Also, I got COVID in January and have a recovery certificate. Does anyone know if I will be considered ok for 2g+ until March (aka I won’t need a negative test)? Thanks!

    1. You still may have a hard time explaining it to the inspector in a restaurant.
      But you are technically and legally boosted after your second vaccination. This is as per the latest change that is just coming in.

      Your booster status will go away again in February (90 days after the second shot), and you will have to get a third vaccination in order to retain it.

  2. I see some good news coming in for people vaccinated with J&J.

    I got J&J in June last year and the second vaccination on 2nd Jan. Up until yesterday, the second vaccination was just the `second vaccination` and was not considered a booster. So it only made you fully vaccinated and not boosted.
    So until yesterday I wouldn’t be considered 2G plus and would require a negative test for entry in a restaurant or bar.

    But today, the rules have changed. If you had your `second vaccination more than 14days ago and less than 90 days ago`, you will be on equal footing with a classical 3/3 series.

    But this privilege will go away after 90 days of the second vaccination, forcing to get a third jab to be considered boosted again.

    Still very complicated, but comes as a relief I would say.

    So yeah- Long story short . Even for J&J , if you got your second vaccination 14 days back, you will be considered boosted.

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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

The EU recently recommended that masks no longer be mandatory in air travel - but Germany is not changing those rules, at least for now. Here's what you should know about mask rules in Germany.

EXPLAINED: Germany's current Covid mask rules

People in Germany have been wearing face coverings in lots of public places for around two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But in April, the mask rules were significantly relaxed.

It means that in Germany you currently don’t have to wear a mask (but can on a voluntary basis) in these places:

  • shops and supermarkets
  • restaurants, cafes and bars 
  • cultural buildings including museums and galleries
  • leisure venues, including gyms and cinemas
  • hairdressers and other body-related services

However, businesses can ask customers or visitors to wear a mask so you may find signs on the door of some venues or facilities. 

Some businesses will have a sign with the word Freiwillig (voluntary) and the mask symbol at their entrance, which means customers are encouraged to wear a mask but are not legally obligated to.

That’s the case at the Kleinmarkthalle in Frankfurt’s city centre as shown in this photo. 

A mask sign in Frankfurt.

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

In Germany you still have to wear a mask in these places:

  • on public transport (all buses, trains and trams) and in stations
  • on flights to and from Germany
  • in hospitals and medical practices including doctors’ surgeries 
  • in care facilities, such as care homes for the elderly or other places where there are vulnerable people

What type of mask is required?

FFP2 masks have become standard in Germany, but it depends on the state or business rules. In some areas, medical masks are sufficient. 

But hasn’t the EU relaxed mask rules for flights?

Yes. However, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s (ECDC) move to end mandatory masks on flights earlier this month is only a guideline – and the ultimate decision lies with the country. 

A German Health Ministry spokesman told The Local: “The decision on mandatory masks is made by national authorities. The mandatory mask requirement in aircraft therefore continues to apply on all domestic German routes as well as on flights that take off or land in Germany.

“An FFP2 or medical mask must therefore be worn when boarding and disembarking as well as during the entire flight. This may only be removed when eating and drinking. Exceptions to the mask requirement exist for children under six years of age and, for example, for people who are not allowed to wear a mask for medical reasons.”

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

Has there been any confusion on this?

Apparently so. There have been reports of some airlines not pointing out the rules for mask wearing in Germany. 

On at least two of Swiss Airline’s flights from Hamburg and Berlin to Zurich recently, Swiss cabin staff did not let passengers know about the mask requirement, reported German news site Spiegel. That is despite the rule that all travellers have to wear a medical face mask on all flights to and from Germany.

On the flight from Hamburg to Zurich, an estimated 40 percent of the approximately 200 passengers were travelling without face coverings, Spiegel said. When asked about this, the news site reported that a flight attendant said: “We don’t have a mask requirement at Swiss anymore.”

The Swiss airline, which belongs to the Lufthansa Group, lifted the requirement for masks on board at the beginning of April. However, it has to comply with the Covid regulations of the countries it flies to.

A sign telling people to wear a mask at Hamburg airport in February.

A sign telling people to wear a mask at Hamburg airport in February. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

One of the problems with the latest round of rules is that the legal situation in Europe varies – while countries such as France, Poland and Switzerland have abolished the obligation to wear masks in the cabin, it remains in force in Germany, and some other places including Spain.

Italy also requires FFP2 masks to be worn until June 15th at the earliest. In total, 14 EU countries still require people on flights to wear masks. 

A spokesperson for Swiss Airlines told Spiegel: “The obligation to wear a mask applies on flights to destinations where it is mandatory. Thus, for example, our guests have to wear the mask on flights to Germany, but not on flights to Switzerland. Our aircrafts are registered in Switzerland, so Swiss legislation also applies on board.”

READ ALSO: Do flights to and from Switzerland require face masks?

So will masks remain mandatory on flights – and on other transport in Germany?

Politicians have been speaking out recently about the possibility of lifting the mandatory mask rule in Germany. 

Germany’s Transport Minister Volker Wissing, for instance, said that he supported getting rid of the mandatory requirement to wear a face mask on public transport in Germany, as well on planes.

But the Health Ministry told The Local that the mask wearing obligation will remain in place as part of the Infection Protection Act until at least September 23rd 2022 – unless the rules are “adapted to the situation”. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

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