Germany should ‘return to normality’ on March 20th, says MP

The head of the FDP parliamentary group wants Covid protection measures in Germany to be dropped by March when the legislation is due to expire.

A government ad for vaccination in Cologne.
A government ad for vaccination in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

“On March 20th, Germany should return to normality, because that’s when the (Covid-19) measures expire, unless the Bundestag actively decides to extend them,” FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr told Germany’s Funke Mediengruppe on Thursday. 

“The yardstick for corona restrictions must always be the burden on the health system,” Dürr said. “Fortunately, this overload no longer exists.”

Dürr said clinics in Germany were coping well with the Omicron wave. 

“Therefore, we should start today to withdraw the restrictions on freedom, step by step, and phase them out by March 19th – more than a month from now.”

It comes after Gerald Gaß, head of the German Hospital Association, said he “no longer” expected the German health care system to be overloaded due to the Omicron variant. 

READ ALSO: German hospitals ‘won’t get overwhelmed in Omicron wave’

At the end of 2021, the Bundestag decided not to extend the so-called epidemic emergency of national importance. The parliament instead amended the Infection Protection Act, which allowed strict Covid-19 measures to continue. This legislation is in place until March 19th, 2022. 

The law can be extended by three months if voted on by the German Bundestag.

Dürr said that the vast majority of people in Germany had supported the tough restrictions, and politicians should not leave them in place for longer than necessary. 

Under the current rules, unvaccinated people are barred from most public places, and vaccinated and recovered people need to show proof of a Covid test or booster to access many venues. Clubs are also closed. 

The FDP's Christian Dürr gives a statement at his party's digital parliamentary group meeting.

The FDP’s Christian Dürr gives a statement at his party’s digital parliamentary group meeting. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the health system is in danger of becoming overloaded in future, the Bundestag can act at short notice, Dürr said, adding that new regulations for the mask requirement to continue in places like public transport may be needed after the March deadline. 

Earlier on Thursday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he expected a debate on relaxations at the next Covid summit between the federal and state governments on February 16th, but warned that Germany should “not relax too quickly”.

“We still have rising case numbers, the likes of which we have never had before,” he said, adding that easing restrictions too quickly could see the pandemic prolonged, and result in more deaths due to the lower vaccination rate among older people.

On Thursday Germany reported 247,862 Covid infections and 238 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. The 7-day incidence stood at 1,465.4 infections per 100,000 residents.

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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?