Bavarian leader proposes plan for Germany to relax Covid measures

Bavarian premier Markus Söder has put forward a step-by-step plan on how he thinks Germany should relax Covid measures, including getting rid of the 2G rule in shops.

Bavaria's premier Markus Söder peaks at a meeting of the CSU parliamentary group.
Bavaria's premier Markus Söder peaks at a meeting of the CSU parliamentary group. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Söder, who belongs to the CSU – the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democrats (CDU) – told German daily Bild that a plan on “opening steps” needed to be taken now. 

He proposed that the current restrictions – such as the 2G-plus rule which means vaccinated/recovered people have to show proof of a booster shot or test to enter many places – should be eased.

The 2G rule means that only vaccinated and recovered people can enter. Unvaccinated people are barred.

“Firstly, with an FFP2 mask, we can dispense with the 2G rule in shops,” said Söder. “People only stay in shops for a short time. That could be implemented nationwide.”

Söder then proposed that the 2G-plus rule – currently in place for most of the hospitality industry and some cultural and leisure venues in German states – should be softened in some areas. 

READ ALSO: Germany is stuck in Covid Groundhog Day. It’s time to move on

“In gastronomy, we should keep 2G, but do away with the ‘plus’, i.e. the additional test,” he said. “We are already doing that in Bavaria. Instead, we have stricter rules for clubs and discos where the risk of infection is particularly high.”

Under this plan, 2G-plus would remain in some areas, such as clubs. 

Söder also proposed allowing more spectators at events.

“Thirdly, we can allow more spectators in stadiums and cultural events again,” he said. “Currently, cultural events are allowed to have 50 percent spectators – we can go to 75 percent nationwide. In football we are now at 25 percent. There we can go to 50 percent spectators with a capacity limit, but with distance requirements.”

Söder wants to see a review of contact restrictions.

“And finally, we should proceed quite fundamentally according to the principle: where FFP2 masks are worn, contact restrictions can be lowered. For this, the Health Ministry must draw up a step-by-step plan,” he said.

The topic of easing Covid measues has gained momentum this week after neighbouring Denmark relaxed its pandemic restrictions.

READ ALSO: German politicians spar over Covid exit strategy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, however, does not want to follow the government in Copenhagen for the time being.

Decisions on easing the restrictions need to be made after the Omicron peak expected in mid-February, he said. “But unfortunately we have not arrived there yet,” the SPD politician told broadcaster ZDF.

The next federal-state meeting is scheduled for February 16th. 

ANALYSIS: Are Germany’s Covid rules backed up by science?

‘Recovered status must be discussed’

On the topic of travel regulations, Söder said Germany needs to overhaul its travel rules system due to the rise of Omicron, which is more transmissible but generally causes milder illness than previous variants. 

“The incidence has served its time as a yardstick,” said Söder. “With such high values, like we currently have, travel regulations with reference to risk areas, for example, make little sense.

“The only thing that makes sense is testing after return. That has to be adapted.”

Söder is also in favour of doing a U-turn on the recent rule change on the status for recovered people. He believes it should be six months – not three months.

“The recovered status must be discussed again in the Bundestag,” said Söder. “We must return to six months recovery status as it applies in Europe.”

The CSU leader also sees a clear link between a possible vaccine mandate and further relaxations.

He said with the introduction of compulsory vaccination, leaders have to let the public know which restrictions can be done away with.

“Because if this duty comes, other regulations must fall,” said Söder.

The Bavarian leader said Germany needed to have “caution and hope”.

“We can open a door in the Omicron wall and maybe move from pandemic to endemic if we can be sure that the health system will no longer be overburdened,” he said. 

In the interview with Bild, Söder also reacted to reports of problems with the implementation of the compulsory vaccination for health staff.

As things stand, staff have to prove they are vaccinated by March 15th or risk losing their job. But hospitals have concerned about the loss of unvaccinated staff.

“Should the compulsory vaccination in care professions lead to a real nursing emergency, we will have to suspend and postpone it,” Söder said.

“At the peak of the burden, we cannot do without nursing staff.”

Member comments

  1. Why is Germany so keen to keep regulations. Just get everything open. Forget the vaccine mandates. Lets just get on with life. There’s no reason to keep them in place now.

  2. Key to why this won’t work is the continuous reference to “FFP2 Masks”. Many people you see just wear the cheapest medical masks, which until now have been allowed or tolerated. So getting everyone to wear FFP2 masks instead is going to be a big struggle.

    1. They went through all the studies of lockdowns and masks and social distancing in England. They came to the conclusion that is a saved approximately 100 lives. Or 0.002% of covid deaths were avoided. This was outweighed. By the number of suicides during the first lockdown alone.

      So forced restriction/ mandatess actually cost more lives than they saved. FFP 2 masks i guarantee are about someone getting a back hander more than actual science. (I haven’t found country wide proof yet.)

      It would have been better to just give out factual information and let people make their own choices. We all know now that the modeling was, and still is a disaster.

  3. It is clear now that there is no need for the exclusion and discrimination against the unvaccinated. There never was of course but at least the scapegoating and the smears have quietened down. Only positive is at least you know now who can now trust.

    1. It was very frightening how fast some people dusted off their Hugo Boss outfits.
      I dont think its quietened down at all.
      Its shocking how cruel people can be under the guise of kindness.

  4. The vaccine mandates are very controversial and it will be very difficult to get the public on board to yet more Covid related restrictions, thankfully the pandemic appears to be abetting.

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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?