German parliament to end mask-wearing rule for MPs

An era draws to an end on Monday as the German Bundestag will no longer require politicians to wear Covid masks in the debating chamber.

A sign informing MPs of Covid rules in the German Bundestag.
A sign informing MPs of Covid rules in the German Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Around three weeks after states in Germany dropped many of their Covid measures, the federal parliament is set to follow with a massive relaxation of mask-wearing and other Covid restrictions. 

The obligation to wear a mask in the building and present ‘3G’ proof to participate in plenary and committee meetings will be abolished as of Monday “in light of the current pandemic situation”, a memo from Bundestag President Bärbel Bas explained.

“Of course, everyone is free to continue wearing a mask,” Bas wrote. “In particular, where it is not possible to remain at a distance, this continues to seem advisable.”

MPs will still be able to order masks and tests on expenses and will be able to get tested at the Bundestag until May 20th.

The move marks the beginning of the end of 18 months of strict Covid measures in Germany’s iconic parliamentary building. 

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

At the height of the pandemic, 736 MPs and their staff were even subject to the ‘2G-plus’ rule, requiring them to be fully vaccinated or recovered and also present a negative test to enter the debating chamber.

The move meant that several politicians from the far-right AfD party – many of whom are vaccine sceptics – were unable to enter the main chamber and instead had to sit in the public viewing area where the 2G-plus rule did not apply. 

Covid infections on the up

After dropping consistently for several weeks, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections has once again started to rise in Germany. This could be due to underreporting over the Easter weekend but may also reflect the relaxation of measures and the fact that more people were socialising during the break.

As of Thursday, the weekly incidence of infections stood at 720 per 100,000 people. Around 186,000 new infections were reported within the past 24 hour period, and 324 people died after contracting the virus. 

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

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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?