Baden-Württemberg relaxes Covid restrictions despite high incidence rate

Though the 7-day incidence of Covid infections in the state stands at more than 1,000 per 100,000 people, the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg has ended the 2G-plus rules in bars and restaurants, and in its ski resorts.

Covid sign outside bar in Stuttgart
A bar in Stuttgart encourages people to "stay safe, stay strong" during the pandemic. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The new rules came into force on Friday after the state moved into a lower category on its Covid ‘warning system’.

This system bases restrictions primarily on hospitalisation rates rather than infections. A weekly hospitalisation rate of more than six per 100,000 people triggers Alarm Stage II. If the weekly hospitalisation rate is more than three per 100,000 people, Alarm Stage I is triggered.

Currently, Baden-Württemberg’s hospitalisations stands at 4.93 per 100,000 people, meaning the more relaxed Alarm Stage I is now in place.

This means that, as of Friday, contact restrictions for the vaccinated and recovered have fallen away entirely. 

Unvaccinated people will still be restricted to meeting no more than two other people from one additional household, but people with Covid immunity (i.e. vaccinated and recovered people) will no longer be counted in the numbers. 

Furthermore, the strict 2G-plus rules have been removed for everything other than large indoor events with more than 1,500 people, or large outdoor events with more than 3,000 people. 

This means that vaccinated and recovered people can now visit a restaurant, bar or cafe without a recent test or booster jab. 

In the tourist and leisure industries, there will also be significant changes as ski lifts, gondolas and shuttle buses will also move from 2G-plus to 2G. The same applies to leisure and club sports, where the requirement to present a test or have a booster jab to enter indoor spaces will fall away. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for Germany’s ski resorts

For public events with up to 1,500 attendees, a vaccinated and recovered (2G) policy will also be in place, but events can welcome up to 3,000 guests if they opt for a 2G-plus policy. 

The changes also make life easier on the unvaccinated by ‘downgrading’ certain sets of businesses from 2G (vaccinated and recovered only) to 3G (vaccinated, recovered or tested). This includes non-essential shops and universities. 

In addition, people with no vaccinated or recovered status can use a simple rapid test to go to the hairdressers, rather than a PCR test.  

As reported by The Local on Tuesday, the southern state of Bavaria has also relaxed its Covid rules this week. As of Thursday, up to 10,000 people will be allowed at large events like football matches as long as venues stick to 25 percent capacity and enforce a 2G-plus entry policy.

In smaller cultural venues like cinemas, museums and theatres, 2G-plus will remain in place but venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Meanwhile, the 2G rule will remain in place in hospitality but will be dropped in non-essential shops following a recent court ruling. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Bavaria to ease some Covid restrictions

Here’s a summary of Baden-Württemberg’s latest changes: 

  • Contact restrictions: As mentioned above, there is no upper limit on private gatherings of vaccinated and recovered people. Unvaccinated and non-recovered people may still only meet with up to two people from another household. What is new is that vaccinated and recovered people are no longer counted in such a meeting
  • The FFP2 mask requirement now also applies in local and long-distance public transport
  • The 3G rule applies again in the retail sector. Unvaccinated people can now visit non-essential shops with a negative test
  • In areas where a negative PCR test was previously required for 3G, a negative rapid test is now sufficient. Unvaccinated people can now go to the hairdresser with a negative rapid test
  • For indoor sports, 2G applies – so only vaccinated and recently recovered people may enter
  • For religious services and other religious events, a 3G regulation will be introduced in the “alert levels” from February 14th
  • In the catering and hospitality industry, 2G applies indoors and outdoors. In addition, restaurants and bars can return to their previous opening hours as the the current curfew has been dropped
  • Trade fairs and exhibitions are not permitted
  • Clubs, discos and club-like premises remain closed
  • Carnival parades are not permitted in either “alert level”
  • For public festivals, the obligation to wear FFP2 masks applies outdoors and visitors levels should be at 50 percent to their previous capacity. If a 2G entry policy applies, a maximum of 3,000 people may attend. If 2G-plus is in place, this is increased to 6,000 visitors

Other states could follow

The decision to relax rules in southern Germany could set a precedent in other states as politicians look for ways to ease the burden of Covid rules on both individuals and industry. 

With the milder yet more infectious Omicron dominating in Germany, health experts are eyeing hospitalisation rates to see if restrictions can be relaxed while avoiding excessive strain on the healthcare system. 

In Berlin, for example, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections stands at more than 1,800 per 100,000 people – making it one of the country’s Covid hotspots – but the hospitalisation rate is just 3.98. 

This compares to a 7-day incidence of 1,024 per 100,000 people in Baden-Württemberg, and a hospitalisation rate of 4.98. 

So far, however, there has been no suggestions of easing restrictions in the capital.  

READ ALSO: How worried should we be about Germany’s rocketing Covid rates?

Member comments

  1. Is it just me or is that graph by Tom Nuttall appear to show 100% fatality rate then 125% then omicron.
    I look at that graph and see new infections . And they all died 12 days later.

    There should be no restrictions. Get rid of the lot.

  2. The decision to focus on hospitalization rates rather than case rates was already agreed last year, yet mysteriously ignored when Omicron came around. Although all of the restrictions are archaic and ridiculous at this point, at least one state is focusing on a far more sensible metric, i.e. hospitalizations.

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Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

Germany's highest court ruled on Thursday that the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rule for employees in health and care sectors is constitutional.

Germany's top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

From mid-March this year, health and care workers in Germany have had to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered. 

If they can’t provide this proof they face fines or even bans from working – however it is unclear how widely it has been enforced due to concerns over staff shortages. 

On Thursday the constitutional court rejected complaints against the partial vaccination mandate, saying the protection of vulnerable people outweighs any infringement of employees’ rights.

The law covers employees in hospitals as well as care homes, clinics, emergency services, doctors’ surgeries and facilities for people with disabilities. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid vaccine mandate for health staff

The court acknowledged that the law meant employees who don’t want to be vaccinated would have to deal with professional consequences or change their job – or even profession. 

However, the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid as a health or care worker is constitutionally justified and proportionate, according to the judges.

They said that’s because compulsory vaccination in this case is about protecting elderly and sick people. These groups are at increased risk of becoming infected by Covid-19 and are more likely to become seriously ill or die.

The protection of vulnerable groups is of “paramount importance”, the resolution states.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach welcomed Thursday’s ruling and thanked health care facilities who have already implemented the vaccine mandate. He said: “The state is obliged to protect vulnerable groups”.

Course of the pandemic doesn’t change things

According to the ruling, the development of the pandemic in Germany is no reason to change course. 

The court based its decision on the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and medical societies, stating that it could still be assumed that a vaccination would protect against the Omicron variant.

It’s true that the protection of vaccines decreases over time, and most courses of disease are milder with the Omicron variant. Nevertheless, the institution-based vaccination obligation remains constitutional because, according to the experts, the higher risk for old and sick people has not fundamentally changed.

A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote held in April

MPs had been allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue rather than having to vote along party lines.