German Health Minister defends lifting of Covid measures

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has urged German states to cooperate with the relaxed Covid restrictions, saying the country can no longer justify having tough rules in place.

Karl Lauterbach, German Health Minister, in the Bundestag.
Karl Lauterbach, German Health Minister, in the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

At the weekend, Germany let its former Covid infection protection laws fall away, and introduced new legislation with relaxed rules. 

Under the changes, people don’t need to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a test (the so-called 2G/3G-rule entry system) before going to indoor public places, on public transport or in the workplace. 

People will also no longer have to wear masks on long-distance public transport like trains, in restaurants/bars and in shops. Basic protection measures will continue, for instance the wearing of masks in local public transport, old people’s homes, doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.

But the government has come under fire from many German states and others, who say it’s irresponsible in the face of rising Covid infections.

Many states have made use of a transition period and will only remove rules, such as mask wearing and 3G in restaurants and bars, at the end of March or beginning of April.

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

Yet Health Minister Lauterbach on Sunday once again defended the end of many Covid protection requirements and called on the states to implement the new legal basis after the transition period. 

“We cannot keep cutting and limiting the liberties of the entire population just because 10 percent of those over 60 are not willing to be vaccinated,” the SPD politician told German broadcaster ARD on Sunday.

The protections do not have to expire now, Lauterbach stressed – under the transition period they can continue for two more weeks until April 2nd.

“It may be that by then the case numbers will be more stable again or even decrease,” he said. If not, restrictions can be tightened in so-called “hotspots” with particularly high case numbers, added Lauterbach.

The minister admitted that this was the first time the federal government had made changes to the law without involving states, but he appealed to states not to sulk about it, adding that the legal tools were there to appropriately respond to the Covid situation. 

He said if a whole state had lots of areas with rising Covid infections then it was possible that for it to be classed as a Covid “hotspot” and tougher measures brought in. 

The SPD politician called on unvaccinated elderly people in particular to get their jabs in view of high infection rates.

“They are at the highest risk,” Lauterbach said. Germany is in a difficult situation because a large number of older people have not been vaccinated.

The Health Minister said it was important to keep encouraging people to get vaccinated, and advocated for a general vaccine mandate.

Member comments

  1. “We cannot keep cutting and limiting the liberties of the entire population just because 10 percent of those over 60 are not willing to be vaccinated,” the SPD politician told German broadcaster ARD on Sunday.

    Karl Lauterbach actually said this? No, i don’t believe it. was it not a mear 4 months ago he did just that?

    This is like having someone stamping on your face and actually thanking them when they stop.

  2. With these variants, it makes no sense, the 2G rules or even 3G rules. My entire family is fully vaccinated including all our children. All adults are boosted. Nonetheless, we all tested positive this week. The worst symptoms so far are runny noses and fatigue. Being vaccinated didn’t prevent us from getting infected, so limiting access to the game we attended on Saturday based on vaccine status didn’t make a lick of difference. We STILL likely picked it up there. End all restrictions and let’s just get on with our lives.

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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?