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COVID-19 RULES

What are Germany’s new Covid mask rules?

Germany is on the cusp of an overhaul of its mask-wearing rules, with several shops and businesses indicating that they're happy for customers to leave their masks at home. Here are the places you will - and won't - need to cover your mouth and nose in future.

Berlin bar Covid mask
A mask lies on a table in a bar in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

On April 2nd, the current set of Covid protection measures will expire, leaving only a handful of restrictions in place.

One of the major changes – along with the end of 2G and 3G rules – will be the end of mask-wearing rules in shops and other businesses. 

In future, there will be no general obligation to cover your nose and mouth when entering supermarkets and other shops – but it’s possible that some retailers may decide to put their own mask-wearing rules in place. 

This is, at least, what Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is hoping for.

Having drafted the new version of the Infection Protection Act along with Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP), Lauterbach is now calling on retail chains to take matters into their own hands and ask customers to wear masks even after the legal basis for this has changed.

He’ll be disappointed to find out that several major German retailers have already declared that they have no intention of keeping masks in place from April 2nd.

The places where you’ll be able to shop “ohne Maske” include:

  • Shopping centres run by ECE, including Berlin’s Gesundbrunnen, Hamlin’s Stadtgalerie and the Olympia shopping centre in Munich
  • MediaMarkt and Saturn
  • Thalia
  • Deichmann
  • Ikea
  • C&A
  • Douglas
  • Ernsting’s family
  • Gerry Weber
  • Woolworth
  • Aldi 
  • Edeka (from April 4th)

READ ALSO: OPINION: The worst of both worlds – Germany’s coronavirus policy pleases no-one

What about other shops?

As mentioned, the law is changing to end the general obligation to wear masks in retail outlets. Nevertheless, one or two shop owners may decide they want to keep this in place to protect their staff. However, this group will probably be in the minority.

Another thing to consider is that the new law contains a clause allowing certain regions to define themselves as “Covid hotspots” and keep some rules like masks in shops in place for a bit longer. 

The definition of a hotspot is a bit woolly at present, but the Infection Protection Act says it should be a region where hospitals are under severe pressure. So far, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Hamburg have signalled that they’ll take advantage of this clause. 

Where else can people go without a mask?

Almost everywhere. Primarily, the new regulation is aimed solely at vulnerable groups, so you’ll still be expected to wear your mask on a visit to the GP or hospital and in nursing and care homes. In many other public venues, mask-wearing rules will end. 

In practice, that means that leisure venues like gyms, cinemas and museums will no longer require customers to wear masks. It also means that people will no longer have to put on their masks when entering and leaving bars, cafes and restaurants – or when heading to the toilets in these venues. 

Kino International Mask wearing

A sign in Kino International, Berlin, tells customers to wear a nose-and-mouth covering. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

The general mask-wearing obligation will also be dropped in the workplace – though employers will be required to come up with their own concept for keeping their staff healthy, which could include masks in some instances. If that’s the case, they will be expected to supply their employees with the masks they need.

Parents and children may also be relieved to find out that the mask-wearing rule will be dropped in schools and nurseries. 

READ ALSO: How Germany is preparing to end ‘working from home’ rule

What about on public transport?

This is one major exception to the rules. According to the latest version of the Infection Protection Act, people will still be expected to cover their nose and mouth on local trains, buses and trams. 

There were early rumours that the government was considering changing the rules on long-distance transport, but it looks like that has now been overturned, meaning passengers on long-distance buses and trains will also need to wear a mask. The same will apply on flights. 

What type of mask is required?

States may decide to write their own rules on this, and FFP2 masks have become pretty standard in Germany in any case.

However, there’s nothing concrete in the Infection Protection Act, so people who want to be more environmentally friendly may be able to switch back to the reusable cloth masks once again. 

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For members

COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

From October, there will be changes to who is considered fully vaccinated in Germany. Here's what we know so far.

EXPLAINED: Germany's planned changes to Covid vaccination status

People in Germany have to pay close attention to their current vaccination status because of an important change coming up. 

From October 1st 2022, those who have not received their Covid booster vaccination will be considered unvaccinated. 

A spokesman from the German Health Ministry told The Local: “People who have a double vaccination will generally no longer be considered fully vaccinated from October 1st 2022, according to the innovations in infection protection.

“Accordingly, the EU Covid digital vaccination certificate will be shown as invalid for domestic use when checked with the CovPassCheck app.”

However, there are slightly different rules for entry into Germany. 

The Health Ministry spokesman said: “In the context of entry, according to European law, an EU digital Covid vaccination certificate will continue to be valid after October 1st 2022 for a double vaccination if no more than 270 days have passed since the last vaccination dose, or indefinitely for persons under 18.”

READ ALSO: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

Note that in Germany, the recovered status is believed to offer a similar level of immunity to a vaccination. So people who have recovered from a Covid infection will only need two jabs to be considered “fully immunised” from October.

What are the different combinations?

Here’s a look at what applies now, and what the rules will be from October. 

Since March 19th 2022, the Infection Protection Act has specified the conditions that have to be met to be considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany.

Up until September 30th 2022, these scenarios count as complete vaccination protection:

– Three vaccination shots (basic immunisation plus booster)

– Two single vaccinations (two weeks must have passed after the last dose)

– One vaccination PLUS

a positive antibody test before the first vaccination OR

a PCR-proven SARS-CoV-2 infection before first vaccination OR

a SARS-CoV-2 infection detected by PCR test after first vaccination; 28 days must have passed since testing.

After October 1st 2022 you are fully vaccinated in Germany in these scenarios:

– After three vaccination shots (the last jab must have taken place at least three months after the second single vaccination),

– Two single vaccinations PLUS

a positive antibody test before the first vaccination OR

a PCR-proven SARS-CoV-2 infection before the second vaccination OR

a PCR-tested SARS-CoV-2 infection after the second vaccination (28 days must have elapsed since testing).

Vaccinations must have been administered with vaccines licensed by the European Union or vaccines approved abroad that have the same formula as one of the EU-approved vaccines. 

Germany’s Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends that everyone over the age of 12 who has had two jabs should get a booster vaccination. Children aged 5 to 11 with pre-existing diseases should also receive a booster vaccination after basic immunisation, according to STIKO.

It is recommended in Germany that some people receive a fourth jab – or a second booster shot. However, currently this is only a recommendation for risk groups, such as the elderly. 

Why is this important to know?

At the moment there are very few Covid restrictions in place in Germany. However, it could be the case that tougher rules are brought in after summer if the infection situation worsens. 

That could mean that people would once more have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test (the so-called 3G rule) to enter public facilities, such as restaurants, bars or museums. 

If the situation gets worse, the government could also bring in the 2G rule, which means unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter.

READ ALSO: Germany lays out autumn Covid plan

Up until now 76.2 percent of the German population has had two shots, and 61.6 percent have been boosted. 

Up-to-date information on Covid-19 vaccines and the regulations around it is available on the Germany Health Ministry site (in German). Talk to your GP if you have any questions about Covid vaccines in Germany. 

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