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COVID-19 RULES

Will Germany ditch mandatory masks on planes?

Germany is to get rid of the mask mandate on passenger planes, according to draft Covid rules for autumn and winter.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears a mask at the end of August.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears a mask at the end of August. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

Earlier this year, the EU recommended that masks no longer needed to be mandatory on air travel. However, the German government decided to keep the rule in place, meaning that people have had to wear face masks on flights to and from Germany. 

The initial plans for Covid laws this autumn included keeping the mask rule on planes in place. 

But after questions were raised over why ministers – including Chancellor Olaf Scholz – were seen without masks on a government trip to Canada recently, it now appears that the mask mandate for passenger planes will be dropped.

READ ALSO: ‘Double standards’: Why top German ministers are embroiled in a Covid row

According to German media reports, a new draft of the Covid infection protection laws says it will no longer be a requirement for passengers to wear an FFP2 mask on planes, but that it could be reintroduced if Covid cases soar. 

The draft law stipulates that FFP2 masks will, however, have to be worn on long-distance trains, as well as in hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and clinics nationwide. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, told DPA: “Vaccination and masks remain the best protection against the expected Omicron wave. That’s why we are using both.”

Masks should therefore also be worn in doctors’ offices, he said, adding: “As long as the pandemic situation permits, on the other hand, the mask requirement will be dropped on aeroplanes. However, the mask remains recommended there as well. This is not a question of regulations, but of common sense.”

According to a report by Germany’s RND, the originally planned mask requirement for air travel was removed from the Infection Protection Act due to pressure from the Free Democrats (FDP), who form part of the ruling coalition along with the SPD and Greens. The FDP had been pushing for an end to mandatory masks in planes. 

The Bundestag is scheduled to decide on the Covid plans for autumn this Thursday.

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

Vocabulary 

Mask obligation/compulsory masks – (die) Maskenpflicht

Airplane – (der) Flugzeug

Draft – (der) Entwurf

Long-distance train – (der) Fernzug

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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COVID-19 RULES

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

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

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”

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