What’s the reaction to Germany’s plan to phase out Covid rules?

The German government and states have proposed to phase out almost all Covid restrictions by March 20th. Here's the reaction so far.

A sign for FFP2 masks at the front of a shop in Frankfurt.
A sign for FFP2 masks at the front of a shop in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

A draft document emerged on Monday showing Germany’s proposals to ease Covid restrictions gradually. 

The plans to lift coronavirus measures by March 20th, which some German media have dubbed ‘freedom day’, have largely been welcomed. 

“Society needs a plan for gradual loosening, but of course with a sense of proportion,” the chairman of the German Hospital Association, Gerald Gaß, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

“This is especially true because the figures do, after all, indicate that we have passed the peak of the Omicron wave.”

READ ALSO: Germany plans to drop almost all Covid restrictions in March

On Tuesday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported a decline in the nationwide 7-day incidence for the third day in a row.

The 7-day incidence stood at 1,437.5 infections per 100,000 residents on Tuesday, compared to 1,459.8 the day before. However, experts believe a high number of cases are not recorded in the RKI data.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state leaders will discuss the plans at their Covid summit on Wednesday. 

The draft sets out how Germany can gradually abolish nearly all Covid-19 protection measures by spring.

As a first step, private gatherings for vaccinated and recovered people are to be allowed again with up to 20 people allowed. In shops, the 2G rule is to be dropped nationwide, but the obligation to wear masks is to remain.

READ MORE: What we know so far about Germany’s ‘freedom day’ plans

The doctors’ association Marburger Bund also considers a phasing-out of measures to be the “right approach”.

“It can only be done step by step and with a sense of proportion,” said Susanne Johna, head of the association, in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

The obligation to wear FFP2 masks should be the last measure to be dropped, Johna stressed.

For virologist Klaus Stöhr, however, the phasing out plan does not move fast enough. He called on politicians to loosen the rules more quickly.

“You have to relax (the rules) everywhere where it can be proven that there are no corona outbreaks,” Stöhr told RND.

He said lifting the Covid health pass entry restrictions (known as 2G, 2G-plus or 3G in Germany) in shops and restaurants should happen immediately because they “have never been (Covid infection) hotspots”.

“Since hospitals are obviously not threatened with being overburdened, any further delay in easing must be justified precisely, with facts and figures,” said Stöhr.

But some people have questioned the plans to set a date for lifting Covid restrictions. 

The president of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said he saw “a lot of sensible things in this paper.”

However, he considers it “problematic that the relaxations are tied to calendar dates, because the virus does not care about the calendar beginning of spring”, Montgomery told newspapers in the Funke-Mediengruppe.

“It would make more sense to tie it to a mix of data on hospitalisations, intensive care bed occupancies and the incidence of new infections,” he said.

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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?