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COVID-19 RULES

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

From keeping the 2G-plus rules in place to prioritising PCR tests, here's what you should know about Germany's latest Covid decisions.

People queue for a Covid test in Munich.
People queue for a Covid test in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

What did the government and states say?

“The Omicron wave has reached Germany,” said the government and states in their agreement after their Monday meeting. “The new variant of the SARS-CoV-2- virus (coronavirus) is spreading very rapidly.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the German state leaders said they would stick with the current strict Covid regulations, but there will be some changes, especially with regards to the testing strategy.

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

“The measures in place to reduce the number of contacts and the cautious behaviour of citizens has initially slowed down the steep rise, which can be observed in other countries,” they said, adding that experts believe there will be a further increase in the number of infections.

Authorities say the Omicron variant is currently spreading more among the younger population, and it is unclear how things will develop when the wave reaches the older age groups. 

“The extent of the hospital burden will depend decisively on the number of cases in the group of unvaccinated adults over the age of 50,” the government and states said. “These numbers are currently still comparatively low.

“If there is a threat of the health system being overloaded”, the federal and state governments will “agree on further-reaching measures for infection control”.

Here’s an overview: 

2G-plus and contact restrictions remain in place

As before, vaccinated and recovered people must provide proof of a negative Covid test or a booster vaccination (the 2G-plus rule) when entering restaurants, bars or similar facilities. Some states and private businesses have also widened this rule to include leisure and cultural venues.

Unvaccinated people will continue to be barred from entry.

Meanwhile, a maximum of 10 vaccinated/recovered people can meet for private gatherings, as decided previously.

For unvaccinated and non-recovered people, only members of their own household and a max of two people from another household are allowed to meet.

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

Access to PCR tests restricted

This is one of the major changes to the regulations. 

PCR tests are to be set aside for staff “especially in hospitals, in surgeries, in nursing and in institutions for integration assistance” as well as for high-risk patients due to the high demand. 

The federal and state health ministers are to work out a new testing strategy. However, PCR testing capacities are also to be increased.

Olaf Scholz after the meeting with state leaders.

Olaf Scholz after the meeting with state leaders. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/POOL AP | Hannibal Hanschke

The change will likely mean that people who get a positive antigen or self test, or receive a red warning in the Corona-Warn-app will not have to get a PCR test in future. 

However, it is unclear, for example, whether PCR test restrictions would also affect privately paid tests that are necessary for travel abroad. It is also not clear what this would mean for the recovery status.

People only have recovery status in Germany with evidence of a positive PCR test. 

We’ll keep you updated when we get more information. 

Changes in contact tracing

The Omicron wave is causing the number of cases to explode to such an extent that in many German districts, the health offices can’t keep up with contact tracing.

Therefore, as with PCR testing, there is to be prioritisation. Health ministers will work out a plan to deal with this. 

Citizens are also called upon to help. “They should inform their (Covid) contacts on their own, and use the available electronic tools for contact tracing,” the agreement says. 

READ MORE: Is Germany set to ease or tighten Covid measures?

Changes to quarantine and isolation rules

Again, the rules are changing in part because of the shortage of PCR tests. Soon, the general rules for isolation will also apply to Covid-hit employees in hospitals and care facilities.

This means that isolation after a proven infection can be ended after seven days by a rapid antigen test (rather than a PCR test) if the patient is symptom-free for 48 hours. Without a test, isolation ends after 10 days. 

When having to quarantine as contacts of someone with Covid, it will now also be possible for this group to end the quarantine with a negative antigen test after seven days. People who’ve had booster shots, or are recently vaccinated or recovered are excluded from quarantine if they are contact persons with no symptoms.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new rules and exceptions for Covid quarantine 

Possible changes to major events

In some states, large events like football games currently take place entirely without spectators, while others allow a certain number of spectators.

The states now want to reach a uniform agreement. By February 9th a regulation should be in place that applies nationwide.

Vaccination plea

Among the older population, the proportion of unvaccinated people is “still very high at around three million people”, the agreement between the government and states says.

They renewed their appeal to all those still choosing not to get vaccinated to reconsider their decision.

Next meeting in February 

The Chancellor and state leaders are scheduled to meet on February 16th “unless the infection situation makes an earlier meeting necessary”.

When will we see an easing of restrictions?

The government and states say they will develop a plan for easing the rules to be put in place when “an overburdening of the health system can be ruled out”.

Member comments

  1. remind me how it can be that all of these measures are decided FOR us, and not with our consent? how is it that in a supposedly free democracy the electorate has absolutely no input regarding these rules and restrictions that affect all of us in our daily lives on every level? when will the citizens be asked what they want their government, whom they elect and financially support, to adopt? because in two years it hasn’t yet happened once.

    1. Because Germany isn’t a Swiss-Style direct democracy, which has regular referenda on theee points. That would require constitutional changes (not taking a position on whether that’s a good idea).

    1. It’s been pointed out to you several time that hospitalisations and deaths lag the infections by several weeks. Every country going through Omicron wave eventually experienced increase in both – and Germany haven’t even gotten to the peak of this wave yet.

      1. The numbers of in hospital. Intensive care. And deaths have been dropping. For over five weeks.

        10/12/21 – intensive bed numbers peaked never reaching more than 25% of intensive care bed available.
        14/12/21 – deaths peaked

        Scince these dates the numbers have been going down. All previous waves have had a lead time of around 3 weeks. From onset of symptoms. Progression to serious illness and death. For omicron. Nothing. It has been 6 weeks. In most other countries they have not seen huge, if any increases. The countries who have fared worse with covid are the ones with the strictest restrictions.

        https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/germany/#graph-cases-daily

  2. UK figures dropping dramatically despite no restrictions. Football Stadiums are full to capacity. No Nazi pass required to enter indoor facilities. Im hoping for a Foreign invasion to liberate us! Can anyone hear or help us out there?!

    1. I agree with your point but calling it a Nazi pass in Germany is a criminal offence, trivializing the holocaust, more importantly calling everything and everyone you disagree with a nazi cheapens to the word to nothingness. I can call you an idiot or a nazi and believe it or not there is a world of difference there.

      1. Bob Abroad. Just to clarify calling anyone or anything a Nazi is not a criminal offence.

        Germany has outlawed the glorification of Nazism. But no law forbids calling someone a Nazi.

        What is illegal is what German law refers to as “hurting someone’s honor” — in this sense meaning somebody’s worth — or hurting someone’s reputation through verbal abuse. Violating this principle constitutes slander.

        By my understanding of the law (basic could be used as an overstatement). If used in the way of satire it appears to be fine.

        In April 2017 two lawsuits — one against the AfD’s Alice Weidel and the other against Green politician Volker Beck — gave more leeway to satire and political freedom. In Weidel’s case, a Hamburg court threw out her cease-and-desist request against a show that had called her a “Nazi bitch,” since it was clearly satire. 

        Beck lost a slander case in which a far-right politician called him Obergauleiter of hordes of members of the Nazi paramilitary SA. The nation’s top court reversed an earlier regional court ruling because the two politicians had been involved in a verbal sparring match. Thus, the words against Beck were considered polemical rather than slanderous.

        I like to think of it in the form of vodermot in Harry potter. saying he who can not be named gave him more power than just saying his name. Making Hitler and Nazism the but of the joke I like to think upsets Hitler in which ever corner of hell that buggy sits.

        This takes nothing away from the genocide that was committed on everyone not only the Jews.
        Just my 2 cents.

        1. Wow, thanks for the detailed comment, I remember hearing a bit about that on the news.

          There was a great meme a few years back about wanting to grow up and be hitler, it beautfully encapsulated the issue with labelling everyone a Nazi, unfortunately I can’t find it anymore. Post it to FB and offended a bunch of my friends. I think a better choice of words might be fascism or similar word. Gets the point across without the baggage

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For members

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, and in German airports
  • 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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