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COVID-19 RULES

KEY POINTS: The Covid rules you still need to know in Germany

The transition period for the previous version of the Infection Protection Act has expired, bringing with it the end of most Covid restrictions in Germany. Here are the measures you still need to know about.

A sign informs people of the mandatory mask-wearing requirement
A sign in Schwerin informs people of the mandatory mask-wearing requirement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

Over the past year or so, the ‘G’ rules mandating proof of vaccination, a booster, negative test or recovery certificate have become a regular part of life in Germany. For a while, unvaccinated people had to grow accustomed to a more restricted lifestyle or needing to test regularly to go to bars, shops and gyms. Vaccinated people, meanwhile, always had their phones at the ready, preparing for the inevitable “Impfnachweis, bitte!” (Vaccine pass, please!) as they entered pubs and restaurants. 

Since the transition period for the last set of Covid rules ended on Sunday, however, an end of an era is upon us. All of the ‘G’ rules have completely fallen away, meaning people can go about their normal lives regardless of whether they’ve had their jabs or a recent test. Two states have opted to keep things like 3G and 2G for now, but for the vast majority of people, the vaccine pass and recovery certificate are a thing of the past (at least for now).

Another victim of the most recent changes to the Covid rules is capacity limits – so sports and cultural venues will now be able to fill their seats just as they used to do before the pandemic. And there’s also no legal requirement for employers to allow working from home. 

But with all of the major changes, some important measures still need to be observed. Here’s what you need to know.

Masks on public transport and in hospitals

Though masks are no longer required in shops, restaurants and other public venues, people are still expected to cover their mouth and nose while travelling on public transport. That includes local buses, trams and trains as well as long-distance trains and flights. 

Most transport companies, including Deutsche Bahn, ask customers to wear a medical mask such as an FPP2 mask. 

Masks will also continue to be part of basic protection measures in places where you might encounter vulnerable people: clinics, hospitals and care homes all fall under this category.

It’s also worth being aware of the fact that the owners of supermarkets, gyms, hotels and catering businesses may decide to set their own rules. 

In fact, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has actively encouraged them to do so. So while most of the major retailers are opting to dispense with masks, it’s believed that Netto, DM and Rossmann will be among the brands that will continue to require them. 

READ ALSO: What are Germany’s new Covid mask rules?

Testing

While ‘G’ rules have generally been scrapped across the country, there are still some places you might need a test.

According to the latest version of the Infection Protection Act, the managers of hospitals, care homes and “shared accommodation” (i.e. prisons) will have to keep some kind of testing concept in place, which will mean that visitors and staff still require tests.

For residents of nursing homes or prisons, local health authorities will be able to decide when tests are needed – for example, when there’s evidence of an outbreak or a swell in infections. The testing requirement for staff and visitors can be replaced with a ‘3G’ rule, so you may find a hospital or care home asking for a vaccination or recovery certificate in lieu of a test. 

Tests are also likely to continue in most schools around the country, though states are allowed some leeway on this.

A test centre in Hinterzarten, Baden-Württemberg

A test centre in Hinterzarten, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

In the workplace, almost all government-mandated rules will end, but employers will have the freedom to define their own hygiene concepts. That could involve wearing masks, keeping distance or testing regularly – though if your employer decides to do this they will have to provide masks and tests free of charge. 

Local testing centres will continue to offer free Bürgertests to residents and tourists until the end of May.

Quarantine

For the time being at least, the current quarantine rules for people who have close contact with a Covid-infected person, or people who have Covid, remain in place.

In essence, that means up to 10 days of quarantine for anyone who tests positive for Covid (or seven with a negative test) and the same for double-vaccinated or unvaccinated people who have contact with someone infected with Covid. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s rules and exceptions for Covid quarantine

If you’ve have your booster or a second vaccine shot within the past three months, you won’t have to quarantine if you’ve spent time with a Covid-infected person. However, everyone has to self-isolate following a negative test result.

Travel rules

The government has shaken up its travel rules recently, removing all countries from the Robert Koch Institute’s infamous “risk list”. Nevertheless, the basic requirement to furnish proof remains in place.

That means you’ll need your negative test result, recovery certificate or vaccine pass at the ready when returning to the country after a trip abroad, even if you’re travelling by road. 

READ ALSO: What to expect if you’re travelling to Germany this Easter

Covid ‘hotspots’

So far, two German states have opted to take advantage of a clause in the new Infection Protection Act that allows them to declare themselves “hotspots” and keep many of their previous Covid rules in place.

In Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, most public venues still operate with a 3G entry policy (tests, vaccination or recovery) and masks, or a 2G policy (vaccinated and recovered only) without masks. In most indoor spaces – including supermarkets – masks are still mandatory.

A sign outside a Schwerin shopping centre advises customers to wear masks indoors

A sign outside a shopping centre in Schwerin, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania, advises customers to wear masks indoors. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bernd Wüstneck

In addition, a 2G-plus rule (vaccination and booster or a negative test) is still needed to get into nightclubs. According to a recent statement, state officials plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss whether any of these rules should be relaxed in the near future.

The other state that has kept many rules in place is the northern city-state of Hamburg. Here, masks will still be required in the majority of indoor public venues like bars, restaurants, shops and leisure centres, and 2G-plus rules will apply in clubs and discos. This will apply until April 30th. 

READ ALSO: The ‘hotspot’ states keeping Covid rules as restrictions end across rest of Germany

Member comments

  1. Just remember that people now can decide who to discriminate against. And some people relish in it. Like they have not been allowed too since 1945.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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