German ‘freedom day’ arrives but states delay end to restrictions

Sunday marks the first day of Germany's new disease protection law, which rolls back most pandemic measures. But all the federal states have made use of a transition period to delay most rule changes.

German 'freedom day' arrives but states delay end to restrictions
A sign reminding people to wear masks at a shop in Oldenburg. Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa

As of Sunday, passengers on Deutsche Bahn trains will no longer need to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result, with the state rail company immediately enacting the new law.

Passengers will still need to wear masks while travelling though.

People going to work will also no longer need to obey the so-called 3G rules.

The changes come due to the fact that the old disease protection law ended at midnight on Sunday and was replaced by a law which stipulates more relaxed rules.

Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said that “as of now, we are moving people’s personal responsibility to the forefront. We are taking another big step towards normality.”

Most states have made use a transition period though and will only remove rules such as indoor mask wearing at the beginning of April.

The opposition CDU/CSU parties have criticised the government for bringing in the law at a time when daily cases are still high.

Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told Bild am Sonntag that “instead of a day of freedom, we are threatened with a day of unreason.”

On Sunday a further 131,792 new cases were recorded by the Robert Koch Institute.

At the same time, the number of people in intensive care has remained stable since the end of January and is far below a peak of over 4,000 patients reached on December 13th.

Criticism of the relaxed measures also came for the chairman of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), Reiner Hoffmann, who called on the government to reverse its decision.

“We are seeing record infections and the situation may worsen again in the autumn,” Hoffmann told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers.

“I plead for the disease control law to be quickly tightened up. We must not risk the workplace becoming a hotbed of infection again,” he said.

What’s the new law?

Under the law passed by the Bundestag on Friday testing and vaccine entry requirements will be restricted to facilities for vulnerable groups such as nursing homes and hospitals.

The law does however foresee stricter rules for regional “hotspots” as and when outbreaks occur.

All 16 federal states now want to use a transition period of two weeks provided for in the law.

This means that currently existing regulations such as mask requirements in areas such as stores and schools, or access rules such as 2G and 3G, can remain in place until April 2nd at the latest.

At the same time the transition period does not allow for the continuation of caps on the number of people entering events.

The president of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, warned that the rapid removal of mandatory masks in many states would open up schools to contagion.

“I am very concerned about how quickly the mask requirement is now being dropped in schools in many federal states – and this despite the fact that we are still in the midst of the Omicron wave and the infection figures are rising again,” he told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

READ MORE: EXPLAINED – The streamlined Covid measures coming in force in Germany

Member comments

  1. How dare we pretend to return to normal for 2 weeks. This is unacceptable. I demand we go into another hard lockdown. And instead of one mask. Everyone should wear two. For double protection.

    Everyone is going to get covid. It can not be stopped. China are trying and their numbers are trending up. Why not just let it run. Everyone who wants to be vaccinated is. Take some personal responsibility and get on with it. When the government stick their noses in its always a disaster.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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?