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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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?