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Reader question: Is Germany’s Covid health pass still valid?

Do you have to carry proof of Covid vaccination or recovery when you're in Germany, or travelling? Here's what you need to know.

Germany's version of the EU digital Covid certificate.
Germany's version of the EU digital Covid certificate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

Testing centres, masks and vaccination certificates – these are a few of the things that have become part of everyday life since the pandemic started in 2020.  

But as Germany has phased out most regulations – such as the 3G and 2G rules – many are wondering if they still need to have a record of this information, and if the laws around Covid certificates still exist.

Do I need to have or carry proof of my Covid vaccinations in Germany at the moment?

It’s worth noting that there is no obligation to have proof of your Covid status in Germany. But it is an obligation to show it if you want to access certain facilities if there is a rule in place at the time. 

Under recent rules, for instance, people needed proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid test (the 3G rule) to enter places like restaurants, bars and gyms. And it was even stricter under 2G and 2G-plus rules – unvaccinated people were generally excluded. 

Usually, showing proof involved presenting the CovPass or Covid-Warning app (for proof of vaccination/recovery) on a smartphone or a negative test certificate from a test centre. People also typically had to show photo ID alongside this document. Those without a smartphone could also choose to show a yellow booklet with proof of vaccination in most cases. 

But when the rules are not in place, as is the case currently, there is no need to carry around or have these files.

Will I need my Covid documents in future?

Under the current infection protection laws, which are in place until September 23rd, it is possible for a state to bring in tougher entry restrictions – such as 3G or 2G – if the state parliament declares a Covid hotspot situation. That is very unlikely at the moment after all states relaxed their restrictions.

The EU digital vaccination certificate.

The EU digital vaccination certificate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

However, the German Health Ministry is currently putting together a plan for winter – and the government is set to extend Covid regulations. That means there is a chance that tougher restrictions will come into force in the colder months. 

KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

For that reason it is best to hold onto your documents. Meanwhile, vaccination apps (and your yellow booklet) are useful to have so you can keep an eye on how many vaccinations you’ve had, and when you had them. The Covid-Warn app is also extremely useful for knowing if you’ve come into contact with someone who has Covid since you receive a red alert. 

Another important point is that you may need to show proof of vaccination/recovery at short notice when travelling. That could be the case if rules change while you’re travelling. 

It may also be needed to travel back into Germany in future, although travel restrictions have been temporarily dropped. 

READ ALSO: The Covid rules that tourists in Germany should know

A spokesman from The Health Ministry told The Local: “It is of course advisable to have a recovery certificate (or, in the case of a vaccination, a vaccination certificate) issued following an infection. However, there is no obligation to do so.

“The certificates can also be issued afterwards, e.g. if someone wants to use them for travelling abroad, and if appropriate rules are applied.”

What else should I know?

From October 1st 2022, people who have not received their Covid booster vaccination (third jab) will be considered unvaccinated. 

This is important to be aware of if rules like 3G or 2G are introduced again and you are trying to gain access to public venues with your health records. 

Check out the article below for more details on the changes. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

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Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder (CSU) has announced plans for a "prompt" end to mandatory masks on buses and trains.

Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

If infection levels and hospitalisations remain low, the end of the mask-wearing rule could come as soon as December or January.

“We are convinced that the mask requirement in public transport could also be phased out either in mid-December or early next year, if the numbers remain reasonably stable and there are no new mutations,” Söder explained on Monday, following a meeting with the CSU executive committee. 

A decision on when to end the measure would be made “promptly”, he added.

The CSU politician had said last week that the sinking infection rates meant that compulsory masks were no longer appropriate and that the mandate could be changed to a recommendation. 

No set date for change

The latest version of Bavaria’s Infection Protection Act – which lays out an obligation to wear masks on public transport as one of the few remaining Covid rules – is currently due to expire on December 9th.

State ministers could decide whether to let obligatory masks on buses and trains lapse on this date as early as next week, or they could decide to initially extend the legislation and set an alternative date for ending the rule.

Regardless of their decision, FFP2 masks will continue to be mandatory on long-distance public transport until at least April next year, when the nationwide Infection Protection Act is due to expire.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

Speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Florian Herrmann (CSU), head of the State Chancellery, confirmed that Covid-19 had been discussed in passing.

However, no decisions or discussions were made on how to proceed after the expiry of the regulation, he said.

According to Herrmann, the fact that Covid was no longer the “dominant topic” in the cabinet under “enormous tension” shows “that we are returning to normality” in a gradual transition from pandemic to endemic. 

As of Wednesday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people stood at 108 in Bavaria, down from 111 the previous day. However, experts have cast doubt on how meaningful the incidence is in light of the fact that fewer people are taking tests.

Nevertheless, the 133 hospital beds occupied by Covid patients in the Free State falls well below the 600 threshold for a ‘red alert’. With Omicron causing less severe courses of illness than previous variants, politicians have increasingly focussed on hospitalisation statistics to gauge the severity of the situation.

‘A risk-benefit trade-off’

Bavaria is the second federal state to announce plans to relax its mask-wearing rules in recent weeks.

On November 14th, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein announced that it would be ending obligatory FFP2 masks on public transport and urged other states to do the same. From January 2023, masks on public transport will only be recommended rather than mandated for passengers on local buses and trains. 

However, the Federal Ministry of Health has urged states not to loosen their rules too quickly.

Given that infection rates are likely to spike again in winter, “there’s no basis for loosening restrictions”, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD).

Physicians are also split on whether an end to masks on public transport is appropriate.

READ ALSO: Will Germany get rid of masks on public transport?

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at the German Hospital Day in Düsseldorf on November 14th. Lauterbach is against the lifting of the mask-wearing rule. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roberto Pfeil

Christoph Spinner, a virologist at the University Hospital in Munich, told Süddeutsche Zeitung he believed it was time to put the decision on mask-wearing back into the hands of individuals.

“Why not? The incidences are low, the danger of Covid-19 has dropped significantly and mortality has also decreased,” he said. 

But the Bavarian General Practitioners’ Association spoke out against the move, arguing that – unlike a trip to a restaurant or cinema – people often have no choice but to travel on public transport.

“If the obligation to wear a mask in public transport is maintained, this will help to protect against a Covid infection on the way to work by bus or train – especially in view of the discontinuation of the obligation to isolate in the event of a Covid infection,” they explained.

Bavaria is one of four states to have recently ended mandatory isolation for people who test positive for Covid. Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein both scrapped their isolation mandate last week, while Hesse removed its obligation on Tuesday. 

READ ALSO: Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation