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COVID-19 RULES

Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

With the current, scaled-back Covid measures due to expire on September 23rd, the German government is discussing a successor to the Infection Protection Act. We break down which measures are likely – and unlikely – to reappear in autumn.

An FFP2 mask lies in the autumn leaves on a street in the city center in Bavaria.
An FFP2 mask lies in the autumn leaves on a street in the city center in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

What’s going on?

Though it may have largely disappeared from the headlines, Covid has by no means vanished over the summer. On Wednesday, the 7-day incidence in Germany was still around 700 infections per 100,000 people, though the real number of cases is likely to be much higher. There are still an average of 100 Covid-related deaths every day.

As people return from holidays, children go back to school and temperatures begin to drop in September, the infection numbers are expected to rise again. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has already warned of a “catastrophic” development of the virus if no suitable measures are adopted before autumn.

His ministry has spoken out about a plan to combat Covid, but it still hasn’t been decided what the infection protection laws will contain.

READ ALSO: Key points – German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Mask wearing

Currently, mask wearing is only mandatory on public transport and in facilities with risk groups such as clinics and nursing homes, but it looks extremely likely that it will once again become mandatory to wear a mask in most indoor areas in the colder months.

At the beginning of July, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) said that it was likely that the new Infection Protection Act would again include a far-reaching mask requirement, while Chancellor Olaf Scholz told ARD in his summer interview: “I believe that one must already assume that the mask will already play a greater role in the fall and winter than it does now.”

READ ALSO: The Covid mask rules in Germany 

Vaccinations

Health Minister Lauterbach has already said there will be a new vaccination campaign in the autumn and recommended that people under 60 get their fourth injection.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

There are currently no approved vaccines in the EU which are adapted to specific Covid variants, though the EU Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently conducting trials for a Covid vaccine that is adapted to the Omicron variant.

Pharmacist Julia Oks-Heidar vaccinates a man against the Covid at the Kosmos Apotheke. Around 500,000 people in Lower Saxony have so far received a fourth vaccination against Covid. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

If these trials prove successful, it could be that we see variant-specific jabs being recommended later in the winter. At the moment, however, it is not yet known exactly which variants will dominate in Germany in winter.

Vaccination Status

One thing that is already clear, is that, from October 1st, those who have not received their Covid booster vaccination will be considered unvaccinated. 

The EU Covid digital vaccination certificate will be shown as invalid for domestic use when checked with the CovPass or Corona-Warning app.

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

2G and 3G rules

Last winter, 2G and 3G rules were in place across much of Germany. The 3G rule meant passengers had to be fully vaccinated (geimpft), recovered from Covid (genesen) or have a recent Covid test (getestet), while 2G entry restrictions meant that only those who had been fully vaccinated or were recovered could enter venues such as restaurants and sporting facilities.

Things got even more complicated with 2G+ rules when restrictions were tightened to allow only boosted and fully vaccinated or recovered people with a test into certain venues.

According to a resolution paper of the state health ministers obtained by Bild newspaper at the beginning of July, a return to 2G or 3G rules this autumn also seems possible.

Bild quoted from the paper: “If, due to an unfavourable development of the Covid pandemic, the basic measures for the protection of the health system are not sufficient, the states must be able to take further containment measures. These include access restrictions, submission of proof of immunity and testing, and person limits.”

Testing

The German government scrapped free Covid testing at the end of June and, since then, taxpayer-funded rapid Covid-19 tests are no longer free of charge except for certain groups of people, including those who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons. 

People in Germany can now pay a reduced fee of €3 for a test for private use, including for visits to family celebrations, concerts or other indoor events, or if they get a red notification on their Covid warning app, or if they plan to meet someone over the age of 60 or people with a pre-existing illness or disability.

Following the new rules, the German Association of Towns and Municipalities immediately called for free Covid tests to come back in the colder months. 

Chief Executive Gerd Landsberg told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland at the beginning of July: “We assume that by the autumn at the latest, when the next big wave of Covid threatens, there will have to be free tests again across the board.”

A woman sticks a sign on a glass wall saying that Covid tests cost €3. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Dunker

At the moment, it is still unclear whether tests will become free again. It’s likely that this decision will be taken into consideration along with whether or not to reintroduce 2G and 3G rules, which were scrapped in March.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany

Lockdowns

The reintroduction of lockdowns looks unlikely, with both the Justice Minister and Chancellor Olaf Scholz having rejected the idea.

In his summer interview with ARD, the German Chancellor said: “There should be no more school closures, and I don’t think we need the kind of lockdown we’ve had in recent years.” We now have a “completely changed situation,” Scholz said, referring to a vaccination rate of 76 percent in Germany.

The prospect of new lockdowns was outright rejected by Justice Minister Bushman: “In my view, based on everything we know, lockdowns, school closures, and curfews are no longer proportionate today…we are in the third year. And if we know today that these measures have a very poor cost-benefit profile, then we should say goodbye to them for good,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid lockdowns in Germany shouldn’t be ruled out, says expert

Quarantines and isolation

At the moment, anyone infected with Covid has to isolate for at least five days and up to a maximum of ten days.

Whether this will continue into the autumn is currently the subject of intense debate for German politicians.

Politicians from the liberal FDP party, along with the chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, are in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

However, the Greens’ health politician Saskia Weishaupt and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach are currently against ending the isolation obligation, with Lauterbach deeming it a potential “safety risk”.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

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COVID-19 RULES

Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of rules with new Covid plan?

Germany has put together a plan to tackle the spread of Covid from October until spring next year. But while some proposals have been welcomed, there are fears it could result in a patchwork of rules around the country.

Could Germany see a 'patchwork' of rules with new Covid plan?

Masks will remain mandatory in some places, but states will have the power to take tougher Covid measures, under proposals from the German Health and Justice Ministries for getting through the autumn and winter.

On Wednesday, the coalition pledged a graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, which will be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

It envisages mandatory masks in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport, like buses and trams. 

Under the plans, there is also the option of making restrictions even tougher if the situation becomes critical. But lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The proposals have been met with a divided response so far, with experts calling for more clarity. 

The German Medical Association called for uniform measures throughout the country if hospitals or critical services get overloaded, rather than different regulations in states. 

“It’s important that in future, uniform measures are taken throughout Germany if certain clearly defined criteria are met,” Klaus Reinhardt, President of the Medical Association, told the Funke Mediengruppe on Thursday.

He said the plans for autumn and winter “unfortunately still remain vague”.

The German Hospital Association said it wasn’t clear when the health system would be classed as being overburdened.

“It’s not apparent how the data situation will be seriously improved,” said the chairman of the board, Gerald Gaß.

However, Reinhardt said he was pleased that the plans had “finally been formulated with consideration for our children”.

The German Teachers’ Association said it was important that states would be able to impose mandatory masks on older pupils if they need to, but questioned why masks couldn’t also be introduced in younger children.

Under the proposals, only pupils from the fifth school year onwards can be asked to wear a mask if the Covid situation worsens.

Teachers’ representatives also raised concerns about Germany turning into a “patchwork quilt” due to regions being able to take different measures.

Meanwhile, the German Association of Cities said there were still a lot of unanswered questions, including whether free Covid tests would return. The government recently restricted free Covid testing because they said it was too expensive. 

“Will the free Bürgertests for all be introduced again in autumn? What will happen with the facility-based compulsory vaccination? We expect answers from the federal government on this very soon,” said chief executive Helmut Dedy.

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