German health ministers want Covid rules extended ‘until May’

At a meeting of the state health ministers and Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) on Monday, state officials were allegedly pushing for the current Covid rules transition period to be extended by four weeks.

Bonn mask sign
Sign tells passers-by that wearing a mask is "recommended" on a street in Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is believed to be facing strong pressure from the state health ministers to make further amendments to the Infection Protection Act that would allow them to keep rules such as 3G and 2G in place until May. 

According to a draft resolution at the Health Ministers’ Conference (GMK) obtained by Tagesspiegel, the ministers are calling for a “broad and legally secure set of instruments” to allow them to tackle spiralling Covid infection rates.

The state officials say they require a legal basis “with which the measures required in each case to combat the Covid pandemic can be applied responsibly in enforcement as quickly and unbureaucratically as before.”

READ ALSO: Germany to keep Covid safeguards in place after March 20th

Specifically, the state health ministers have demanded that a transition period outlined in the Infection Protection Act be extended for “at least four weeks”.

Currently, the federal government has given states until April 2nd to remove the vast majority of remaining Covid restrictions.

Despite record-breaking infection numbers – which topped 1.5 million last week – Saturday could therefore see almost all rules being scrapped throughout the country.

States will have to rely on a base set of measures including masks on public transport and in clinics and nursing homes, but the ‘G’ rules that require things like tests and vaccination certificates for entry will be widely dispensed with.

As Lauterbach has repeatedly emphasised, a ‘hotspot’ clause written into the latest version of the Infection Protection Act allows for regions to maintain measures such as 3G and masks in shops in case of particularly high incidences.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The streamlined Covid measures coming in force in Germany

However, the criteria for these hotspots is the subject of fierce debate, with Bavarian health minister Klaus Holetschek calling the guidelines “too woolly” and North Rhine-Westphalian state premier Hendrik Wust (CDU) describing them as “practically unenforceable”.

These criteria should be determined at the GMK on Monday afternoon – likely according to proposals submitted to the state health ministers by Karl Lauterbach.

According to these, an area is to be considered a hotspot if hospitals have to postpone scheduled operations, if there is a threat of emergency rooms being overloaded, if patients have to be transferred to other hospitals and if minimum staffing levels can no longer be met.

The ministers are also aiming to come to a final decision on whether a full state can be declared a Covid hotspot, or if this would apply to municipalities only. Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Hamburg have signalled that they want to declare themselves hotpots in order to keep stricter rules in place once the transition period is over.

The question of whether a state can be a hotspot has been the subject of disagreement at the highest levels of the traffic-light coalition, with the SPD’s Lauterbach calling for statewide rules while Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) suggesting that only smaller regions may use the ‘hotspot’ title. 

Member comments

  1. Requiring negative tests less than 24 hours old might be the only thing that works because being vaccinated and/or boosted doesn’t make a difference. Everyone in my family is boosted and the kids double vaxxed and we all still caught it last week. It doesn’t matter anymore. 2G is useless and discriminates for no good purpose. 3G only works if it’s really 1G – a negative test taken on that day. Germany has lost it’s mind.

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German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Health ministers in Germany's 16 states say that the requirement to wear face masks on local public transport should remain in place throughout autumn and winter.

German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

As part of Germany’s planned Covid regulations from October onwards, people will have to wear FFP2 masks on long-distance transport, such as trains.

However, states are able to decide themselves on any mask requirements for local buses, trains, and trams. 

On Monday, state health ministers agreed that they were in favour of keeping the mask mandate on public transport across Germany.

According to the health ministry in Saxony-Anhalt, which currently holds the presidency of the Conference of Health Ministers, the aim is to have uniform rules in all states when it comes to masks on transit. 

It comes after some people raised concerns that Germany would see a patchwork of different rules across the states.

As The Local has been reporting, the Bundestag last week passed a set of Covid regulations that will be in place from October 1st until April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

The plan includes some measures that will apply nationwide, while the states can decide on regional requirements depending on the pandemic situation.

Across Germany, FFP2 masks will be mandatory on long-distance trains and buses as well as in health and care settings, such as GP offices. There will no longer be a requirement to wear masks on planes in Germany.

Approval of the legal framework is still needed from the Bundesrat, which represents the states. That is expected to take place on Friday.