Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?

People in Germany have had to wear face masks on public transport for over two years. But the Transport Minister says he is in favour of changing this rule - and following EU guidelines to get rid of compulsory masks on flights.

A man wears a face masks near a tram in Brandenburg.
A man wears a face masks near a tram in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

Mandatory face masks for air travel around the EU are set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, although it depends on the country’s regulations and airlines can still require passengers to wear masks.

But the change could pave the way for Germany to ditch compulsory masks on public transport. 

On Thursday, Transport Minister Volker Wissing suggested he was in favour of lifting the requirement for people to wear masks on buses, trains and trams.

“We should proceed uniformly throughout Europe and abolish compulsory masks, especially in air travel,” said Wissing: “I see the same need for adjustment for compulsory masks in buses and trains (in Germany).”

READ ALSO: Covid face mask rules on flights in Europe set to be eased

Infectious Disease Protection Act would have to be amended

Wissing’s statement refers to the relaxation of the obligation to wear masks in air traffic by the The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

However, the recommendation of the EU authorities is dependent on its implementation in national law. According to the recommendation, if there is a state requirement to wear a mask on public transport at the point of departure or destination, this should also continue to apply onboard the aircraft.

This means that if Germany doesn’t overturn the mask requirement for public transport (including air travel), passengers will still have to wear masks on flights with German airlines and at German airports.

In order to lift the mask requirement in these places, the Infection Protection Act would have to be amended, reported German daily Tagesschau. The law is currently valid until September 23rd 2022.

German airlines say they are in favour of abolishing the mask requirement, and making it voluntary instead. 

Germany recently relaxed face-mask rules – but mandatory masks remain on public transport and in places like hospitals and care homes. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

The Association of German Transport Companies also supports getting rid of face masks on public transport.

“We have been experiencing full football stadiums, concerts and events without mandatory masks for months. And also in restaurants, shopping centres and supermarkets, more and more people are out and about without masks,” said Chief Executive Oliver Wolff.

But the Health Ministry said that compulsory masks would continue for the time being. Children under the age of six are exempt from wearing masks. 

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Traffic warnings issued in Germany ahead of public holiday

People travelling in Germany this week have been warned to expect heavy traffic and busy airports.

Traffic warnings issued in Germany ahead of public holiday

Germany has a nationwide public holiday on May 26th to mark the Christian holiday Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt), which is also known as Father’s Day or Men’s Day.

Many people also book the Friday off work – known as a Brückentag (bridge day) – to make their annual leave go further. 

It comes after a disappointing start to the year when some public holidays fell on the weekend, meaning that most people didn’t get the day off in Germany. 

READ ALSO: German politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Meanwhile, with Covid restrictions being eased in most countries around the world, people in Germany are now desperate to make the most of their time off. 

It means that roads and airports are likely to be much busier – from Wednesday afternoon onwards. 

Germany’s biggest car club, the ADAC, warned that traffic jams were expected. 

Where are the worst traffic jams expected?

The ADAC expects the first peak of congestion on Wednesday from around 1pm to 7pm. It will also be very busy on Saturday and Sunday, while experts believe Friday will be fairly quiet on the roads. 

Roadworks might also pose a problem – the ADAC says more than 1,000 construction work sites are in place across Germany right now. 

The ADAC said the biggest traffic jams were expected around Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich, as well as on the following motorways:

A1 Cologne – Bremen – Hamburg – Lübeck

A2 Berlin – Hanover – Dortmund

A3 Cologne – Frankfurt – Würzburg – Nuremberg

A4 Kirchheimer Dreieck – Erfurt – Chemnitz – Dresden

A5 Hattenbacher Dreieck – Darmstadt – Karlsruhe

A6 Heilbronn – Nuremberg

A7 Hamburg – Hanover and A7 Würzburg – Füssen/Reutte

A7 Hamburg – Flensburg

A8 Stuttgart – Munich – Salzburg

A9 Munich – Nuremberg

A10 Berlin Ring

A61 Mönchengladbach – Koblenz – Ludwigshafen

A81 Stuttgart – Singen

A93 Inntaldreieck – Kufstein

A95/B2 Munich – Garmisch-Partenkirchen

A99 Munich Autobahnring

Ascension Day is also a public holiday in Austria and Switzerland. 

Road experts say there could similarly be some busy roads in these countries which could affect Germans crossing the borders. 

“This will be particularly noticeable on the access roads to the leisure regions in the lower road network of the Alpine countries – for example, in Austria the Carinthian lakes, the Salzkammergut, Lake Neusiedl and the recreational areas of the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Valais,” said the ADAC.

“Slightly longer driving times should also be planned for the Tauern, Fernpass, Brenner, Rhine Valley and Gotthard routes.”

READ ALSO: Why Germans are being warned not to cycle drunk on Father’s Day

What about airports?

German airports are also expecting a rush of passengers this week. 

From Wednesday until Sunday this week, around 77,000 passengers per day are expected at Berlin’s BER airport. On regular weekdays, between 55,000 and 65,000 passengers is the norm, while around 70,000 travellers pass through BER on the peak days of Friday and Sunday.

Passengers are urged to be at the airport at least two hours before check-in, and to keep an eye for any updates or changes to their trip from their airline.