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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in February 2022

From changes to the validity of the EU vaccination certificate to possible easing of Covid restrictions and school holidays, here's what to know about life in Germany in February.

An alarm clock
There are lots of changes coming up in February in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/CosmosDirekt | CosmosDirekt

Vaccination certificate changes

Previously, anyone who had two jabs against Covid was viewed as being fully vaccinated for 12 months for travel into Germany. However, from February 1st this will change. 

From this date onwards, vaccination certificates for people without a booster jab will only be valid for nine months (270 days) for travel into Germany, and other EU countries. The aim of the new rule agreed by the EU Commission in December is to ensure smoother travel, and uniform restrictions.  

There is no time limit on the validity for people who’ve had the booster jab.

Vaccinations in pharmacies

After around a month of busy preparation, staff in pharmacies around Germany are getting ready to roll up their sleeves and play their part in the vaccination drive.

From February 8th, pharmacies across Germany will be offering Covid vaccinations on their premises. 

Gabriele Regina Overwiening, president of the German Pharmacists’ Association, told Tagesschau on Friday that pharmacy staff had undergone training and that the technical infrastructure had been set up to allow the Apotheken to pass on details of vaccinations to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Not all pharmacies will be offering the jabs, but the ones that do are likely to shout it from the rooftops since they also get remunerated for each jab. Check with your local pharmacy to find out more about the new scheme. 

READ ALSO: German pharmacies to offer Covid vaccinations ‘from February 8th’

Possible Covid restriction changes

German states have strict Covid-19 measures in place, including 2G-plus for entry to many public places, including restaurants, cafes and bars. It means people who are vaccinated/recovered have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test or their booster shot. Unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter.

READ ALSO: Key points – How Germany will tackle latest phase of the Omicron wave

A person gets their vaccination pass scanned in Bad Homburg.

A person gets their vaccination pass scanned in Bad Homburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state leaders are due to meet on February 16th unless they decide to meet earlier due to the development of the Covid situation. 

So far, authorities have said they would introduce tougher restrictions if they are needed. However, the hope is that the Omicron wave eases and Germany can relax some of the rules. 

The southern state of Bavaria, has already started easing some rules. However, Bavaria had some of the strictest rules in place.

School holidays 

May children in Germany will get some time off from school during the half term winter holidays, which usually last a few days to a week.

Holidays differ depending on the state. In Berlin, children are off from January 29th until February 5th. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the winter holidays starts on February 5th to February 17th.

In Bavaria, the winter holiday starts on February 28th and lasts until March 4th. Find out about all the states here

Carnival

In some cities across Germany, large Karneval or Fasching events traditionally take place over a few days around this time of year. This year there will be celebrations on Thursday February 24th, (Fat Thursday) Monday February 28th (Shrove Monday or Rosenmontag) and Tuesday March 1st (Fat Tuesday).

Though not official public holidays, work may be affected by the festivities in cities with large carnivals, such as Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich.

However, celebrations will likely be subdued again this year due to Covid. 

The end of the carnival season, Ash Wednesday, falls this year on March 2nd. For Christians, the day traditionally marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts until Easter. Some people abstain from various things during these seven weeks, including sweets, meat, alcohol and tobacco.

READ ALSO: Revellers celebrate at German carnival 

People celebrate Karneval in Düsseldorf on November 11th 2021.

People celebrate Karneval in Düsseldorf on November 11th 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

More security for online shopping

Strong customer authentication (SCA) for payments when shopping online with a credit card has already been in force since January 2021 for consumers buying goods over €250. It means customers have to confirm payments on the internet with a TAN code, a password or facial recognition on their smartphone.

From 15th February, this two-factor identification will apply to amounts from €150 when online shopping in Germany.

Crackdown on hate speech on social media 

The amended Network Enforcement Act, or NetzDG for short, stipulates that social networks have to report users to investigators if they make criminally relevant statements or share these kinds of posts, rather than just deleting them. 

And on February 1st, a new German investigative office looking into criminal content in social media is to start its work. The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) expects around 150,000 criminal proceedings per year due to the law changes.

The “Central Reporting Office for Punishable Content on the Internet (ZMI)” will have about 200 officers under the umbrella of the BKA.

It aims “to enable consistent prosecution of the authors of such punishable content by the competent law enforcement authorities in the states”, a spokesperson said.

However, social media giants Facebook and Google will not report any alleged criminal offences for the time being because of ongoing proceedings on the topic. They consider the NetzDG disproportionate and are challenging it in court.

Regardless of this, however, “other social networks with at least two million registered users would be subject to the legal reporting obligation under the NetzDG as of February 1st 2022”, a spokesperson for the new office said.

READ ALSO: Germany considers ban on Telegram over fears of conspiracy theorists

New rules for builders

From February 1st, builders will no longer receive grants or loans from the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) if the so-called KfW 55 energy efficiency standards is used for the building project. Funding for new buildings or renovations will only be possible if the KfW 40 standard can be met.

The number indicates the percentage of the prescribed EnEV (German Energy Saving Ordinance) limits the building uses, taking into account factors like energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The aim is to promote more energy efficient homes and buildings.

New flats being built in Cologne.

New flats being built in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

EU-wide mobility changes

From February 2nd, a number of changes to the so-called Mobility Package will enter into force in EU countries, including Germany. This includes obligations for transport companies:

  • to report the posting of drivers in a special interface for carriers connected to the IMI Internal Market Information System
  • to pay drivers at least the full minimum wage in each member state while they are working there
  • to register border crossings on digital tachographs
  • to stick to the mandatory return of commercial vehicles to their base every 8 weeks

Training encouraged

Companies that maintain or increase the number of their training spots despite the Covid pandemic can apply for a one-time grant in the form of a training premium.

The prerequisite for funding is that the firms have to be affected by a decline in turnover or reduced working hours for staff.

For apprenticeships that begin between June 1st 2021 and February 15th 2022, companies will receive a training premium of €4,000 euros per training contract or €6,000 euros per contract if additional training places are created (training premium plus).

The application has to be submitted to the Employment Agency no later than three months after successful completion of the probationary period.

Bad news for Bundesliga fans

Sports streaming service DAZN is raising its fees.

So far, fans have been able to take out a monthly subscription for €14.99 per month or an annual subscription for €149.99. For that, they got a lot of sports – Bundesliga football (men), Champions League (women and men), even more football from abroad, US sports, winter sports, live streaming from Sportdigital, Eurosport, and so on. That’s all over now – at least at that price.

From February 1st, new DAZN customers will pay €29.99 for a monthly subscription and €274.99 for an annual subscription.

For existing customers, the cost remains the same until July 31st. However, you could convert your monthly subscription into an annual subscription, save money over the course of the year and still benefit from the old price until next year.

READ ALSO: Your complete guide to becoming a football fan in Germany

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For members

WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2022

From public holidays and Covid rule changes to a tax deadline and shopping, here are the changes to know about in Germany this May.

Everything that changes in Germany in May 2022

May Day

Germany celebrated International Workers’ Day on May 1st. But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, didn’t result in a day off work for most people because it fell on a Sunday this year. Schade. But no matter, there is another public holiday ahead…

READ ALSO: German politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Ascension Day/Father’s Day

Is Thursday May 26th a religious holiday or a day when people in Germany, especially men, get extremely drunk? It’s actually both. Christi Himmelfahrt is about remembering Jesus’ ascent into heaven, but it’s also about day-drinking. 

That’s because it’s Father’s Day (Vatertag), or Men’s Day (Männertag), and the traditional way that Germans like to be thankful to dad is with a ton of alcohol. 

It’s a national public holiday in Germany every year so many people will get the day off work, and supermarkets will be closed. 

READ ALSO: Why Germans get wholly wasted on Ascension Day

Two men carry some beer in Geretsried, Bavaria, for Father's Day 2021.

Two men carry some beer in Geretsried, Bavaria, for Father’s Day 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

Covid ‘hotspots’ to drop several rules

Most people in Germany saw tough coronavirus restrictions – like 3G or 2G entry to venues – fall away around the start of April. But two states – Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – declared themselves Covid hotspots and lots of restrictions stayed in place. But that’s set to change. Hamburg’s hotspot regulations are set to end automatically at the end of April, while many of the remaining restrictions in Meck-Pom were lifted on Thursday, April 28th. 

READ ALSO: German Covid hotspot states to lift most restrictions

Pre-sale on €9 monthly travel ticket 

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is getting ready to introduce a massively reduced price ticket for three months over the summer to ease the cost of living and energy crisis. Now some transport providers say they will have a pre-sale on the ticket before it launches on June 1st. So keep an eye out online and in stations over the coming weeks. 

READ ALSO: How will Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket work?

2020 tax deadline

Those who submit their tax return with the help of a tax advisor always get a little more time to process it. But all things come to an end. The 2020 tax return must be submitted to the tax office by May 31st 2022 at the latest. Anyone who misses the submission deadline will have to pay a late filing fee. This is usually 0.25 per cent of the assessed tax, but at least €25. If this affects you and you haven’t got your tax advisor sorted yet, do it quickly. 

Online banking

Do you have an account with Postbank and use the chipTAN procedure for online banking? Then you are in for a change from May – the method of processing transfers by bank card and reader at home will be dropped. It is to be replaced by the BestSign method, which enables online banking via an app in combination with biometrics or password.

Beer prices likely to go up

We’ve all been dealing with higher costs for the likes of groceries and energy recently. Now beer drinkers will soon have to dig deeper into their pockets. After some breweries already increased their beer prices in April, others will follow suit in May. The Radeberger and Bitburger groups have announced that their beers will become more expensive, according to the Lebensmittelzeitung. The price increase will initially only affect the retailers, but it is likely that they will pass on the additional costs to consumers.

Discounted food to be labelled differently

Before supermarkets remove food going out of date, many offer discounts. Traders have to indicate a new price for these discounted products, with a tag. But from the end of May, a simple notice such as “30 percent cheaper” will be allowed – without indicating the new reduced price. This makes labelling easier for employees and, in the best case, will lead to less food waste.

Vegetables in a German supermarket.

Vegetables in a German supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Price checking to become easier

Price comparisons at supermarkets and discounters are to become easier for customers from May 28th. Up until now, the prices on tags at the likes of Aldi, Lidl, Kaufland and co. have been displayed differently. Sometimes the price is indicated per 100 grams, sometimes per kilogram. Due to a change in the law, the latter will soon be the only price that can be displayed. According to the new Price Adjustment Ordinance, it has to be clear at a glance how much a kilogram or a litre of the product costs. Consumers will therefore be able to compare prices between shops more easily without having to do their own conversions.

READ ALSO: How Germany is making it easier for consumers to cancel contracts

More protection and clarity during online shopping

Many people wonder why when they shop online at places like Amazon or other marketplaces, certain products appear at the top and keep reappearing. This should become easier to understand in future. Under news laws coming in from May 2022, providers will have to show more clearly how the sorting criteria offered came about. This includes, for example, showing the number of views and the date the offer was posted, its rating or that of the provider, the number of sales of the product or the “popularity”, commissions or fees.

According to the new amendment, there is also a clear labelling obligation for sellers to indicate whether they are selling privately, reselling or are direct sellers. Online shopping platforms will also have to ensure the authenticity of product reviews and to monitor the ban on fake reviews more closely.

The change also affects comparison portals such as Check24 or Verivox. From May 28th, they will also have to disclose which providers were taken into account in a comparison. Ticket exchanges will also have to provide information about the original price of tickets in order to inform buyers about additionally charged costs and fees.

Violations of the new information requirements can cost companies a lot: according to consumer advice experts, fines of up to €50,000 are possible. Companies with an annual turnover of more than €1.25 million can be fined up to four percent of turnover.

A woman shops online in a Black Friday sal

A woman shops online in a Black Friday sale. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Checks for doorstep selling

People in Germany are to be better protected against dubious doorstep selling. In the case of contracts concluded during uninvited house calls, payment may no longer be demanded on the day the contract is concluded. Purchases that were made door-to-door should therefore be easier to revoke if the customer decides so. However, this only applies to items or services costing over €50.

More protection against rip-off ‘coffee tours’

According to estimates, every year five million Germans take part in bus trips which end up being sales events. They are known as “Kaffeefahrten” or coffee tours. But stricter regulations will come into force from May 28th. The providers of these events will have to indicate in their advertising in advance where the event will take place, how participants can contact the organiser and what goods will be offered for sale. And when the new law comes into force, certain products may no longer be sold. For instance, it will be strictly forbidden to offer medical products such as weight loss pills, food supplements and financial services such as insurance or building society contracts. Meanwhile, the fine for violations will increase from €1,000 to €10,000.

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