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COVID-19 RULES

Is Germany set to ease or tighten Covid restrictions?

German chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with regional leaders on Monday to talk about Covid restrictions in Germany. Here's a look at their draft agreement and what we can expect.

People queue for a PCR test in Berlin's Kreuzberg area on Sunday.
People queue for a PCR test in Berlin's Kreuzberg area on Sunday. There is a huge demand for PCR tests due to rising Covid infections. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

What’s happening?

Germany is seeing a steep rise in the number of Covid infections amid the Omicron wave.

On Monday Germany reported 63,393 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period and the 7-day incidence stood at 840.3 cases per 100,000 people. 

However, hospitals are not seeing a similar increase so far, although some scientists say they expect that to happen. Around 3.77 people per 100,000 residents were hospitalised with a Covid infection within the last seven days, according to figures released on Saturday. Germany’s previous peak hospitalisation rate of around 15 was reached in winter 2020.

Chancellor Scholz was set to meet with state leaders on Monday to discuss the next steps of the pandemic. At the last meeting earlier in January, leaders tightened restrictions by bringing in the 2G-plus rules to the hospitality industry – meaning people who are vaccinated/recovered have to show proof of a booster shot or a negative Covid test to enter. They also shortened quarantine periods. 

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The question is: will we see an easing or tightening of restrictions in view of the Omicron wave, or will things stay the same?

What does Germany’s Council of Experts say?

The so-called Corona Council of Experts, which was set up by the German government late last year, has also deliberated and issued a statement before the Federal-Länder meeting.

It advises that the measures currently in place be maintained, and it also advocates that Germany prepare for a further increase in the number of Covid infections.

According to their report, the rising incidences could soon lead to an overload of the healthcare system.

Will there be more stringent measures?

As usual, Covid measures will be discussed at the meeting. In all likelihood, however, no further tightening of rules is expected. 

The draft resolution put together ahead of the crunch talks says that things will mostly continue as they are. And Chancellor Scholz has already made it clear that he sees no reason to change course.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and several state leaders have also said publicly that they want to maintain the current regulations.

So things look set to stay the same on Covid rules. What about PCR tests?

That’s a good question. PCR tests have been a major topic among German leaders in the past 10 days because demand for tests is outweighing supply, and laboratories are overloaded, especially in Covid hotspots like Berlin.

Health ministers held another meeting over the weekend and agreed that they want to see PCR tests restricted so that vulnerable groups and key workers get priority.

The draft agreement states that priority should be given to the elderly, the previously ill and the immunocompromised, employees in clinics, surgeries, nursing homes and institutions for the integration of people with disabilities.

However, it is still unclear how that would be implemented in practice and when it would come into force. It could be, for instance, that people who receive a positive rapid test or a red alert on the Corona-Warn-app do will not need to take a PCR test for confirmation in future. 

For any changes to happen, the current test regulations have to be revised after the federal-state consultations.

A person holds an FFP2 mask in Munich.

A person holds an FFP2 mask in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

According to the draft resolution, the Health Minister is to work out a modified testing regime with his colleagues from the states and adapt the National Testing Strategy and the Coronavirus Testing Ordinance accordingly. The draft proposal also says that the Health Ministry is to also work on expanding PCR testing capacities.

What could change for quarantine rules and contact tracing?

According to the draft proposal, the federal and state governments want to change their strategy on these matters and implement decisions agreed by the health ministers on Saturday.

Due to the sharp rise in the number of infections, health authorities should give priority in future on contact tracing for Covid cases in hospitals, nursing homes, and facilities for people with disabilities.

Who’s calling for Covid rules to be eased?

With the 2G-plus rules in full swing – and causing a lot of confusion among the population due to a lack of clear communication from German authorities – many people are wondering when restrictions may be relaxed.

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Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder recently called for an easing of rules, especially “in culture, sport and youth work”.

He told Augsburger Allgemeine that he would not support any tightening of restrictions.

“Omicron is not Delta, so we can’t transfer the measures one-to-one from one mutation to the other,” said Söder. Experts say Omicron generally causes milder illness than Delta in vaccinated people. 

Who doesn’t want to see the rules eased right now?

Scholz spoke out against relaxations.

“In any case, it is certainly not appropriate to relax the rules across the board in the middle of the Omicron wave,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The head of the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst (CDU), and his SPD colleagues Manuela Schwesig from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Stefan Weil from Lower Saxony expressed similar views.

Wüst told the Tagesspiegel that “a signal for large-scale, blanket relaxation would be too early at the moment”.

“Around 1,500 people a week are still dying of corona, and the staff in hospitals are completely exhausted,” Wüst said.

READ ALSO: Fact check: Does Germany really have the world’s strictest Covid measures?

What does the draft agreement say about relaxations?

The federal government and states want to develop plans for easing the restrictions if an overload of critical infrastructure can be ruled out, according to the draft resolution.

However, the details haven’t been fleshed out in the draft so we can expect some discussion on that in the talks. 

Will vaccine mandates be discussed?

This will probably be touched on since it is such a huge and controversial issue in Germany right now.

Germany is set to bring in a vaccine mandate for health care workers in March. A general vaccine mandate is still to be debated and will be voted on in the Bundestag at a later date. 

The draft proposal repeats its appeal for people in Germany to get vaccinated, and urges the federal and state governments to step up their vaccination campaigns. 

Member comments

  1. To be fair. I highly doubt they will reduce restrictions otherwise their vaccine mandates won’t go through. All about big phama profit now.

  2. Personally I think we’ve arrived at the point where further restrictions on those that have been fully vaccinated would be pointless. It’s time to put those that have been fully vaccinated first and to stop pissing around with the anti vaxxers with their so called freedom, individual rights it’s my body bollocks. I’m sick to the teeth of hearing about it

    1. I think we should move them to their own city. Keep them away from the righteous people. The only problem is it would actually cost us in taxes. If only there was a way to answer the un vaccinated question.

      Be careful what you wish for. We are living in times reminiscent of pre war. You allow them to come after people you don’t care about. They’ll be no-one left when they come after something you do care about. We are all people on this little rock called Earth. Showing compassion wouldn’t hurt even if you don’t agree with their views.

      “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” Bernard Shaw.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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?

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