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.
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.