Germany to keep Covid safeguards in place after March 20th

Germany is to drop almost all Covid restrictions from March 20th. But ministers are thrashing out safeguards, which will mean some measures and a legal framework will remain in place after this date.

A man holds a Covid face mask in Dresden.
A man holds a Covid face mask in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

It has been nearly two years since Germany – and countries around the world – announced unprecedented measures, like the closure of businesses and contact restrictions, to try and slow down the spread of coronavirus. 

But now an end is in sight. On March 20th – which some German media have previously dubbed ‘freedom day” – Covid rules will largely be dropped.

However, some rules will be around for longer, including masks and Covid tests where there are at-risk people such as care homes and hospitals.

And a so-called ‘hotspot regulation’ will also be written into law, meaning that states will be able to introduce tougher restrictions if the Covid situation worsens. 

Politicians in Germany’s government coalition – made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens – have struggled to find a common ground on this issue.

Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), who has always taken a cautious line, warned at the weekend of a summer Covid wave, and said that stricter measures may need to come back in future.  

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

Though the FDP have been pushing to get rid of nearly all restrictions, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) said on Wednesday that a compromise had been reached.

“I think we have found a very good compromise,” Buschmann told German broadcaster ZDF. He said the agreement will mean that there will be “practically no more restrictions in the everyday life of citizens”.

But there will be exceptions – including masks and tests – where there are many vulnerable people, like in hospitals. 

Face coverings may also remain mandatory on public transport. 

‘Covid hotspot rule’

The second part of the new Covid legal framework will be a special ‘hotspot regulation’. It will mean additional measures – such as having to show vaccination or recovery proof to visit restaurants and bars – could be enacted in areas with outbreaks, for instance if the health system becomes overloaded or dangerous new virus variants are found.

The states would be able to decide this through their parliaments, Lauterbach said. 

Lauterbach said the compromise provides for a set of instruments “with which the states can react immediately to new outbreaks or to high numbers of cases”.

This, he said, could be used to deal with any future Covid waves.

“I think this is the ideal compromise,” said Buschmann. “On the one hand – to get as much normality as possible for the citizens and, on the other hand, to be able to act if there is actually a definite dangerous situation.”

The government draft will now be discussed in the cabinet and with the 16 German states.

Germany entered the second step of its Covid relaxation plan on Friday March 4th, reopening restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels to unvaccinated people. Nightclubs also reopened with restrictions. 

Member comments

  1. Lyssa77. Its not freedom day. Its allowing a little freedom day. Because they enjoyed taking it away so much the last 2 years. They just gotta do it again.

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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?