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BAVARIA

EXPLAINED: Bavaria to ease some Covid restrictions

The German state of Bavaria has announced some Covid relaxations, including allowing up to 10,000 spectators at major events.

EXPLAINED: Bavaria to ease some Covid restrictions
Bavaria state premier Markus Söder attends the online state cabinet meeting. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Bavaria’s cabinet decided on Tuesday to lift the ban on spectators attending large events like football matches. 

From Thursday onwards, a quarter of seats can be filled at big events – such as football games and major cultural events, head of the Bavarian state chancellory Florian Herrmann (CSU) said in Munich.

However, there are strict rules including that the number of spectators can’t go over 10,000. 

Admission will also be subject to the 2G-plus rule, meaning that only vaccinated/recovered people can attend and they have to either bring evidence of a negative Covid test or be boosted. 

There will also be a ban on alcohol and people will be urged to keep a distance from others.

According to state health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), only seating will be allowed, not standing arrangements.

Before Christmas, the federal and state governments had agreed that major events should take place without spectators. However, this was not implemented across all states.

After Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state leaders failed to reach an agreement on this issue at the Covid crunch talks on Monday, Bavaria decided to go in its own way and allow fans into stadiums again.

KEY POINTS: How Germany will tackle latest phase of the Omicron wave

More capacity in culture

Cinemas, theatres and similar venues will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity instead of 25 percent.

Herrmann called the change in capacity a “moderate increase that can be well justified”. At the same time, 2G-plus indoors will remain for cultural venues, while the state will stick to 2G entry for hospitality. 

Most other German states have 2G-plus in the hospitality sector meaning that people who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid have to show proof of their booster shot or a negative Covid test when going to a restaurant or bar.

Bavaria has already got rid of 2G in shops following a court ruling that said the regulation was not clear enough. 

Changes to youth services and driving schools

The cabinet also said that unvaccinated pupils can attend youth services, as well as the vaccinated. Children and young people are regularly tested at school like no other population group, Hermann said. 

Meanwhile, the 3G restriction will apply to exams and classes, as well as theory and practice lessons at driving schools. It means that unvaccinated people will also be able to attend if they have a negative test, as well as those who have vaccinated or have recovered. 

It comes after the federal and state governments agreed to stick with the current Covid measures, with Chancellor Scholz saying it was important to stay on course. 

READ ALSO: Germany to keep current Covid measures – but change testing strategy

However, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, German states tend to interpret agreements in their own way. 

On Twitter, state leader Markus Söder said that the changes being implemented by Bavaria were to “adjust and simplify”.

“But protection remains high with 2G-plus and FFP2 masks,” he said. “Pupils can also make use of all the offers of youth work again thanks to regular school tests, because social participation is important.”

Bavarian state ministers said the occupancy of intensive care beds by Covid-19 patients had dropped by 18 percent within a week. They said the situation would be monitored closely. 

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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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