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COVID-19 RULES

Berlin to lift almost all Covid-19 measures on April 1st

Germany is easing Covid rules from March 20th - however, the city state of Berlin has announced that it will lift most restrictions slightly later.

An FFP2 mask sign in a Berlin shop.
An FFP2 mask sign in a Berlin shop. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

After a Senate meeting on Tuesday, Berlin’s mayor Franziska Giffey (Social Democrats) announced that almost all Covid-related restrictions would be dropped from  April 1st. After this date, only basic protective measures, being set out by the federal government, will remain in place.

The so-called Covid pass entry rules (known as 2G or 3G in Germany) in restaurants and cafes in Berlin will be dropped from next month, meaning people will no longer need to show proof of testing, vaccination or recovery.

And face masks won’t have to be worn in shops or other venues. 

However, the mask mandate will remain in some areas: people will have to wear a medical or FFP2 mask on public transport as well as in nursing homes and hospitals. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid incidence reaches record high before measures are lifted

End to free tests in sight

Coronavirus rapid tests, which are free to people in Germany, will also no longer be available from April, Giffey expects.

The mayor told broadcaster rbb24 that the many testing centres using federal funding would likely not be sustainable, and informed Berliners to “no longer expect to see so many test sites in the city”.

When it comes to testing in schools, Giffey explained that it was important to maintain tests until after the Easter holidays in April, though it is yet to be decided exactly how long the tests will be administered to pupils.

Similarly, the Senate has decided to return to almost regular operation in day-care centres from mid-March, although compulsory testing of children three days a week will continue for now. 

The legal basis for most restrictions ceases to apply nationwide as of March 20th, although the government is set to decide on a new slimmed-down Infection Protection Act by the end of this week

However, federal states are set to be granted a transitional period until April 2nd. 

READ ALSO:

In Berlin, this transitional period is to be in place until the end of the month. Giffey justified maintaining the protective measures for more than 10 extra days, saying: “Overall we have a situation that still poses quite a high risk of infection.”

After this transitional period, only areas deemed coronavirus hotspots can adopt stricter measures, though the federal government is yet to specify the exact criteria for when a city or a state becomes a hotspot. 

After Hamburg, Berlin is currently the federal state with the lowest 7-day incidence, but figures have been rising. According to figures released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the incidence in the capital increased to 1,102 infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday, up from 871.8 on Tuesday and almost double compared to the Wednesday the week before. 

Giffey however, said she saw no reason to declare Berlin a hotspot.

“That would only happen if we had a massive increase in the number of infections, a massive increase in the burden on the critical infrastructure and hospitals, health care and intensive care units,” she said.

Berlin also maintains a high vaccination rate, with 77.5 percent of the population having received their first dose, 73.3 percent fully vaccinated and 58.8 percent having had their booster jab.

Divided opinion

While many will have been looking forward to Germany’s version of so-called “freedom day”, others are slightly wary of the sudden lifting of Covid measures.

Patrick Larscheid, a public health officer from Reinickendorf, told rbb’s evening show that the pandemic is being declared “over by decree”, despite still affecting many people.

Meanwhile, other states, including Brandenburg, are likely to maintain many coronavirus measures for a period after March 20th, including the distance requirement and the wearing of FFP2 masks indoors in shops and on public transport.

Member comments

  1. I can see this going 2 ways.
    1. On April first they say April fools there’s no more covid.
    2 April fools. We were never going to ease restrictions. Put on your face nappy and hide in the cellar.

    I’ve got my money on number 2.

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COVID-19 RULES

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

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