Germany to ease Covid restrictions after Omicron wave peaks

Germany's surge in coronavirus infections is reaching its peak, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday, signalling that the country can soon ease tough curbs as the wave begins to ebb.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Bundesrat on Friday
Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the Bundesrat on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“The scientific forecasts show that the high point of the wave is in sight,” Scholz told the upper house of parliament.

“That will allow us to look at the first steps at reopening during a meeting next week between the federal government and the states, and then further steps for spring,” he said.

For weeks, Germany has limited access to bars and restaurants to people who have received a booster jab of the coronavirus vaccine or who are tested on top of being fully vaccinated or recovered.

Contact restrictions are also in place keeping private gatherings to 10 people, or two households if an unvaccinated person is present.

Scholz said that leaders would also be listening to the advice of scientists in order not to jeopardise success in the pandemic.

“At the same time, we will be vigilant and prepared in case the number of infected people increases significantly again,” he said.

The health system has managed the crisis well so far, Scholz said, despite the strains on doctors and hospital staff. He said the tough measures had worked well. 

Scholz is due to meet with leaders of Germany’s 16 states next Wednesday to decide the next steps on dealing with the pandemic.

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

On Friday, Germany reported 240,172 new infections over the last 24 hours, the first week-on-week drop since the beginning of the year.

Germany’s 16 states, which have significant autonomy in implementing restrictions from mask-wearing in public transport to whether children should be sent into home-schooling, have begun to gradually ease curbs.

Plans by the government to push through mandatory vaccinations for the general public were also wobbling, after Bavaria became the first state to lift an obligation for health workers to get their jabs from March 15th.

The southern German state’s decision has fuelled debate on whether the federal government’s proposal to extend a requirement to get the Covid jab would succeed in parliament.

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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?