Politicians call for pandemic exit plan in Germany

Calls are growing from some politicians for a firm plan to relax Covid restrictions in Germany.

A sign on a shop in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria, says: 'No more 2G with immediate effect' following a court decision.
A sign on a shop in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria, says: 'No more 2G with immediate effect' following a court decision. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

The federal and state governments are meeting on Monday to discuss the Covid situation in Germany – and they want to stick to the current regulations that include strict entry rules to most public places. 

But in view of Omicron variant, politicians from Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Free Democrats (FDP) are demanding that they start thinking about an end to the restrictions.

READ ALSO: Is Germany set to ease or tighten Covid restrictions?

CSU state group leader Alexander Dobrindt told Welt that he wants to see Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the state leaders come up with a strategy to “move out of the pandemic step by step”.

He said that because experts agree that Omicron generally results in milder illness than previous Covid variants, the outlook needs to change.

“That is why the evaluation standards must also be adjusted,” he said, adding that the incidence cannot be the yardstick for deciding measures. 

“The central question must be: how burdened is the health system?” he said. This has to be the basis “for all decisions by the federal and state governments”, added Dobrindt.

Relaxations for major events?

Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told broadcaster ARD that when the peak of the Omicron wave – expected for mid-February – was reached and the numbers were also declining in hospitals, the measures would have to be relaxed.

Christof Rasche, leader of the FDP state parliamentary group in North Rhine-Westphalia, went further and called for relaxations for large events. He also urged for the 2G regulation in shops and 2G-plus in restaurants be shelved.

2G means that only vaccinated (geimpft) and recovered people (genesen) can enter, while 2G-plus means that vaccinated and recovered people need to show proof of being boosted or a negative Covid test.

He pointed out that courts in some federal states – including Bavaria – have already overturned the 2G rule in shops.

Earlier, the German Association of Towns and Municipalities also urged the federal and state governments to develop a gradual Covid relaxation plan.

An exit strategy must “be prepared now”, Chief Executive Gerd Landsberg told RND on Sunday.

“In neighbouring countries, we can see that the pandemic will reach its peak at some point, and then the numbers will drop drastically and quickly again,” he said.

As The Local has reported, draft plans show that Chancellor Scholz and the state leaders want to keep the current regulations in place for now against the backdrop of rising infections and fears that hospitalisations will increase, and key infrastructure will struggle. 

However, it is expected that leaders will discuss plans on how to relax rules in future during Monday’s Covid summit.

Member comments

  1. There is no exit strategy. The power given to the politicians hasn’t been seen since it was taken in 1933. They are addicted to it. What is most terrifying is how willing people were then, and now to not only go along with it but actually get in lockstep behind them. And chant for more.

    The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.

    1. Bang on. By far the most alarming thing has been the media’s total abandonment of its role (and responsibility) of providing robust challenge and scrutiny of this massive government overreach. The vast majority of people are extremely obedient and go with whatever line the media feeds them.

      Particularly disappointing in Germany.

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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