German ‘hotspot’ states to lift most Covid restrictions

The majority of people in Germany have been enjoying the reopening of public life for almost a month - but two 'hotspot' states still have tough rules in place. When will the measures in these states end?

Mandatory masks in Hamburg
A man carries away a sign for mandatory masks in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Reinhardt

Since April 2nd, most of the Germany’s federal states have been operating with bare-bones Covid measures in place.

These include a basic requirement to wear masks on public transport and in places like care homes and clinics, though mask-wearing in shops has gone and there are no requirements to show a vaccine pass or negative test when going about your everyday life.

When the dropping of restrictions was announced, however, two states chose to take advantage of a get-out clause known as the ‘hotspot’ regulation. This allowed regions to define themselves as high-incidence areas and keep a number of restrictions in place.


Hamburg was one of the states that decided to do this.

For the past month, the northern city-state has kept masks in place in pretty much all indoor public spaces, including shops, bars, restaurants, and all culture and leisure venues. 

People have also been expected to comply with strict entry policies in clubs and discos: to go out dancing in Hamburg, you currently need both a vaccination or recovery certificate and an official negative test. This system is known as 2G-plus. 

When will the rules change?

Hamburg’s hotspot regulations end automatically at the end of April, and with infection rates falling and the weather getting warmer, there isn’t much appetite to keep them.

On Tuesday, the Hamburg Senate met to discuss future measures – including mask-wearing and testing in schools. At the moment, the expectation is that Hamburg will join other states in dropping masks in most indoor public spaces and ending 2G-plus in clubs. 

In recent weeks, some states have started to phase out tests in schools, which pupils have until recently been expected to take three times a week.

Having already loosened mask-wearing rules in classrooms, it’s likely that the city-state will now go further and set out a place for reducing tests or ending them entirely. Mandatory masks in schools are expected to end on May 1st when other rules are dropped.

READ ALSO: German schools phase out mandatory Covid tests for pupils

What other states have kept rules in place?

The only other state to take advantage of the Covid hotspot clause was the northeastern state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania.

Initially, Mecklenburg kept the so-called 3G rule in place in most public venues, which meant people had to present either a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery to enter. It also kept mandatory masks in place for most indoor spaces, much like Hamburg. 

However, on April 22nd, the court in Greifswald partially overturned these rules, meaning that masks and 3G are no longer required in places like bars and restaurants.

Currently, only tourists are subject to the 3G rule – which primarily applies in hotels and other overnight accommodation.

Interestingly enough, compulsory masks are now only needed in public transport and in tourist hotspots, including:

  • at conference centres,
  • at cultural events and in cultural venues 
  • in tourist accommodation

Aside from masks on public transport, all of these rules are expected to end on Thursday, April 28th. 

Tests are also being phased out in schools. From April 29th, only pupils with Covid symptoms will be required to take a test

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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?