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COVID-19 RULES

Berlin to soften 2G-plus rules

From February 5th, the city state of Berlin will be dropping the requirement for tests in 2G venues for recently vaccinated and recovered people.

Berlin 2G-plus sign outside a pub
A pub in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg advertises its '2G-plus' rules alongside a Jazz jam session. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The rule changes mean that anyone who has received the second of their two Covid jabs within the last three months will no longer have to present a negative test to go to bars, restaurants and cafes.  

The same will apply to people with a recovery status, which currently means anyone who has a positive PCR test taken more than 28 days ago but no longer than three months ago. 

From Saturday, these two groups – along with people who’ve had a booster jab – will be exempt from the testing requirement at 2G-plus events and venues.

The tweak to the rules will come as welcome news to people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and an additional jab. 

Since Johnson & Johnson was initially marketed as a one-shot Covid vaccine, the second shot of vaccine was initially counted as a booster and exempted people from having to take a test under 2G-plus. 

In January, however, the Health Ministry quietly changed the status of this group to fully vaccinated and said that a further booster jab was required. 

READ ALSO: ‘Hard to keep up’: Your verdict on Germany’s ever-changing Covid rules

Meanwhile, people who had not got a second jab after J&J were downgraded to unvaccinated.

Since an interval of at least three months is required between the second and third doses of vaccine, many of these people have been stuck in limbo when it comes to entering 2G-plus venues (where a booster jab or test is required on top of vaccination and recovery). 

The change by the Berlin Senate closes this loophole to ensure that the recently vaccinated no longer have to rely on tests until they can get their additional shot. 

It also allows other people who have opted to get vaccinated more recently to socialise in bars, restaurants and cafes without regular tests. 

Changes to tests and contact tracing

Another key change that will come into force on Saturday is the scrapping of the confirmatory PCR test after a positive antigen test result. 

From February 5th, a positive rapid test result taken under supervision (i.e. in a test centre) will be sufficient to require people to self-isolate. If the test is a self-test taken at home, a confirmatory rapid test will still be required.

PCR tests will only be required if the self-test and rapid test produce contradictory results. 

The move follows plans by the federal government to limit the availability of PCR tests at the height of the Omicron wave. 

At a meeting of the state and federal leaders in January, ministers resolved to restrict access to PCR tests to vulnerable groups and people who work with high-risk individuals.

READ ALSO: What to know about Germany’s planned PCR test restrictions

According to the latest ordinance from the Berlin Senate, staff in hospitals and care homes will still have to take a PCR test to confirm their positive rapid test result.

Meanwhile, hospitality businesses, hotels and events organisers will no longer be required to record the contact details of guests and whether evidence of tests or certificates was presented.

This follows a key decision by the Berlin Senate not to renew its contract with the much-maligned Luca App. 

The app – which allows people to submit their contact data on a smartphone when entering public venues – had been a key tool in contract-tracing efforts at public venues in the early part of the pandemic.

But critics have voiced concerns about the app’s data security and privacy practices. 

An earlier version of this article stated that the changes were going to come into force on Friday. This has now been corrected.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

With the EU changing its Covid recommendations for flights, there is some confusion around whether people boarding a plane in Germany will still need to wear a mask. Here's what we know so far.

Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

As of Monday, the aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC no longer recommend mandatory Covid masks in airports and on planes.

However, if masks are compulsory at the point of departure or destination, this should continue to apply in aircraft as well, they say.

So, what does this mean for passengers boarding flights in Germany? At the moment, not very much at all. 

In Germany, the Infection Protection Act still stipulates that masks have to be worn on long-distance trains and planes. Masks are also compulsory on local public transport.

The previous weeks have seen Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) come out in favour of scrapping compulsory masks – especially on flights.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done to change the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

What are the current rules on flights? 

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, masks are compulsory on all flights taking off or landing in Germany.

FFP2 or medical masks must be worn when boarding and disembarking and throughout the flight, though they can be removed when eating and drinking.

Children under the age of six are exempt from the mask-wearing requirement. 

The ministry has argued that the obligation to wear masks also complies with the new EU recommendations. 

What are the rules acros the EU? 

In general, the relaxed EU recommendation does not mean that masks are no longer compulsory on all flights. However, many countries have kept this measure in place as a simple way to reduce infection. 

Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, published a list of 14 EU countries in which national laws continue to require the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid.

Besides Germany, popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are included on the list. 

In other EU countries, the airline said it would be dropping mandatory masks on flights, adding that it “welcomed” the relaxed recommendations from the EU health authorities.  

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?

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