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KEY POINTS: The Covid rules changing in Germany this week

On March 4th, Germany implements the next phase of its Covid reopening plan. Here's what you need to know.

People dance in H'ugo's Tresor Club in November 2021.
People dance in H'ugo's Tresor Club in November 2021. Clubs are to reopen in Germany on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

What’s happening?

Germany announced in mid-February that it would gradually ease most of its Covid restrictions in three stages. 

In the first stage of the reopening plan announced on February 16th, contact restrictions were dropped for vaccinated and recovered people. However, unvaccinated people are still only allowed to meet with their own household and two people from another household. This restriction remains in place until March 20th. Children aged 14 and under are not included in the rules. 

Restrictions were also eased in the retail sector across Germany, meaning that people could enter shops – like clothes stores – without having to show proof of being fully vaccinated or recovered (the 2G rule). Mandatory masks remain in place. 

As the Covid situation is continuing to ease, restrictions are being relaxed further from March 4th. The last stage – from March 20th – will see almost all Covid rules dropped.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid reopening plan

Restaurants, cafes and hotels relax rules

Access to restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels will open again to unvaccinated people from March 4th. 

The 3G rule will apply to the hospitality sector, meaning that people will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative Covid-19 test. 

Up until this point, the 2G-plus rule has been in place, meaning only vaccinated/recovered people with a negative test or a booster jab have been allowed to dine indoors.

Nightclubs to reopen

Nightclubs and other dance venues like discos have been closed in Germany since late December (and even longer in some regions) in response to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. But on Friday, March 4th they can reopen their doors to the public again. And yes, the Tanzverbot (dancing ban) will be lifted.

There are still strict rules, though. Only people who are vaccinated or recovered with a booster jab or a negative Covid test (so-called 2G-plus rule) will be able to enter clubs and dance venues. 

The so-called Covid Bürgertest or antigen Schnelltest is still available for free in test centres and pharmacies across Germany. You need to bring ID to access it and results are emailed to you or provided via the Corona-Warn app in about 20 minutes. 

A sign in Hamburg says that dancing is not allowed.

A sign in Hamburg says that dancing is not allowed. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

What else changes on March 4th within Germany?

In public life, the 3G rule applies for the most part – for example, at the hairdresser’s, in the fitness studio or in restaurants/cafes/bars. 

This means that unvaccinated people need to show proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test (usually the same day or within the last 24 hours) to enter a public place. Vaccinated and recovered people need to show proof of their immunity status. 

However, the 2G rule will apply in some cases, including at football stadiums and concerts. 

Capacity rules will also be relaxed on March 4th. Indoors up to 60 percent of the maximum capacity – with a maximum of 6,000 people – will be allowed. Outdoors a capacity of up to 75 percent (with a maximum of 25,000 people) will be permitted. This will apply, for instance, to football matches and concerts. 

What counts as proof of being vaccinated or recovered?

When accessing public venues in Germany, you have to know if your immunity status is valid. 

People who have recovered from Covid-19 – and were vaccinated against coronavirus before the infection – lose their immune status six months (or 180 days) after the positive test result. After an outcry about the shortening of the recovered status to three months by the RKI, the status was recently increased again to six months.

However, not for the unvaccinated. For this group of people, the ‘recovered’ status is only valid for three months (i.e. 90 days). That means they will have to get a Covid jab after three months to receive immunity status again.

When it comes to vaccinations, Germany recommends that people get their booster jab three months after basic immunisation (two jabs). 

For entry into Germany – and other EU member states – EU digital Covid vaccination certificates are valid for nine months (270 days) after completion of the first vaccination series (basic immunisation). Boosted people (those who’ve had a third vaccination) are currently considered immune for an unlimited period.

But the ‘nine month validity rule’ does not apply in Germany for restrictions, even though many people use their EU digital vaccination certificate as proof.


Travel changes

There are also changes to travel restrictions. From Thursday, March 3rd, only regions with dominant virus variants that have “higher disease-causing properties” than Omicron will be put on the Robert Koch Institute’s high-risk list, which is subject to stringent travel rules.

That means that, from Thursday, all the regions currently classified as high-risk will be removed from the RKI’s list, because Omicron is dominant in all of them. So for the time being nobody will have to quarantine when they return to Germany – though the requirement to provide a test or proof of vaccination and recovery will remain in place. 

If countries are classified as high-risk later on, children aged 6-12 will be able to test immediately after returning from these areas to allow them to avoid having to quarantine.

Previously, all unvaccinated people over the age of six had to quarantine for up to 10 days, with the option to test for an early release on the fifth day of quarantine.

Children under the age of six will be exempted from the testing requirement and will be automatically allowed to leave quarantine after five days. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Germany’s latest travel rules

Anything else I should know?

Keep in mind that restrictions can vary from state to state in Germany so check the local rules too. Private businesses may also have slightly different restrictions for entry.

Germany is on track to drop all far-reaching Covid rules from March 20th. Basic measures like masks will remain in place. We’ll give you more details on any other measures lasting after March 20th when more information becomes available. 

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

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

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now