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Everything that changes in Germany in February 2023

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Everything that changes in Germany in February 2023
A clock at a train station in Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Carsten Rehder

From the end of Covid masks on trains to hiked up prices on beer, here's what's changing in Germany this February.

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No more Covid masks on trains

It's one of the few remaining Covid rules that still affects day-to-day life in Germany for most people - and it's due to end on February 2nd. In January, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said he'd be ending the mask-wearing rule on long-distance trains and buses a couple of months sooner than planned.

The move follows announcements from numerous federal states that they would be dropping compulsory masks on local transport around the same time. From early February, people in Berlin, Brandenburg, Thuringia, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Saxony will no longer be obliged to bring an FFP2 mask with them when they take public transport.

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Several other states - including Bavaria, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein - had already taken the same step in December and January.  

In Thuringia (February 3rd), Bremen, Lower Saxony (February 2nd) and Hamburg (February 1st), the obligation to isolate during a Covid infection will also be dropped.

READ ALSO:

End of pandemic worker safety measures

Alongside Covid masks on public transport, one of the Covid regulations still in place is the so-called Arbeitsschutzverordnung, or Work Protection Regulation. This obliges employers to implement a hygiene concept in the workplace - so things like hand sanitiser and adequate ventilation - as well as supporting workers who want to get vaccinated. 

That's now due to end a couple of months early on February 2nd. In its place, there'll be recommendations from the government on how best to protect workers from Covid.

The good news for employees is that they'll still be able to get a doctors' sick note over the phone if they need to take time off due to a respiratory infection. The special regulation permitting up to seven days' 'Krankschrieben' over the phone has been extended until March 31st.

Short-term working will also continue if at least ten percent of the workforce is affected by the loss of work. This rule will stay in place until June 30th. 

Test requirement for Chinese visitors

At the start of January, the EU came to an agreement on travel restrictions for visitors from China, which is now being implemented in Germany. 

Any visitors arriving in Germany from China will require a negative Covid test to enter the country. There will also be randomised checks at the border for potential virus variants.

A Covid testing centre at Frankfurt am Main airport.

A Covid testing centre at Frankfurt am Main airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Though Germany eased its pandemic rules last year, there are fears that the current Covid wave in China could lead to new dangerous variants that could then become prevalent in Europe. In addition, China eased its own travel restrictions on January 8th, meaning tourists are likely to be visiting again and residents of China will also be travelling abroad. 

READ ALSO: Germany discourages non-essential travel to Covid-hit China

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Major beer brand to hike up prices

The rise in prices has many of us reaching for a beer - but there's a bit bad news on that front. Yes, the price of some popular beer brands is also set to go up.

To put it more accurately, most of the major breweries have already raised their wholesale prices to combat increased energy and logistics costs in the last few months. But one of the few still standing - NRW'S Warsteiner Group - has now announced a series of price hikes that will come into force in February.

Crates of Warsteiner beer

Crates of Warsteiner beer. Photo: pa/obs Warsteiner Brauerei | Hubertus Struchholz Fotografie

As reported by trade newspaper Getränke News, the price of bottled beer is set to rise by €6.80 per hectolitre, while the price of a barrel of draught beer will go up by €20. 

If costs are passed onto consumers (which seems likely), the following brands could be affected:

  • Warsteiner
  • Herford
  • Frankenheim
  • King Ludwig
  • Kaltenberg
  • Paderborn
  • Isenbeck

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much will grocery prices in Germany go up in 2023?

Over-16s allowed to vote in EU elections

In the next round of European elections, the voting age will be reduced from 18 to 16. The legislation for this will come into force in February.

Unfortunately for youngsters, they won't be able to exercise their democratic rights straight away: the next round of EU parliamentary elections is scheduled in spring 2024, so it'll be around a year before 16 and 17 year-olds can head to the polls. 

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Hardship fund for pensioners

In what could come as a huge help to people struggling on low pensions, select groups of retirees will soon be able to apply for a special hardship fund. 

From February until September 30th, people affected by the cost of living crisis can apply for a special one-time grant of €2,500 from the Härtefallfonds - or Hardship Fund - Foundation. The fund is primarily aimed at Jewish refugees and late repatriates or people who lost a large part of their pension when East and West Germany were reunited, but others can also access it under certain conditions. For example:

  • Employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the Deutsche Post or in the health and social services sector
  • Carers of family members who have had to give up work 
  • Ethnic German immigrants (Spätaussiedler) 

States can also opt to join the Foundation and match the hardship fund provided, meaning pensioners in some states could receive up to €5,000 to assist them with their living costs. Eligible retirees can also submit an application via the Ministry for Work and Social Affairs

READ ALSO: How long do you have to work to receive a German pension?

Woman with wallet

A woman looks in her wallet while grocery shopping. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

Energy-saving lightbulbs with quicksilver discontinued

For around 15 years, quicksilver (or mercury) has been banned in pretty much all forms of electronic and electrical equipment - but there have been carve-outs for certain types of lightbulbs. That's now due to change.

From February, companies in the EU will no longer be allowed to produce energy-saving lightbulbs using mercury. But don't be surprised if you see one or two still being sold in the shops - apparently, existing stock can still be sold and purchased even though no new quicksilver lamps can be made.

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New cars to come with new first aid kits

If you're thinking of purchasing a brand new car from February, you should be aware that there are new rules on the types of first aid kit that have to be included.

From this month, the triangular first aid kit will be discontinued and sets included for drivers will have to include at least two face masks. In return, car companies can dispense with one of the first aid cloths that are normally included. 

This won't affect older cars on the market, however, so there'll be no retrofitting required. The legislation will only affect new cars that come on sale in February. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in 2023

More public drinking water fountains

It's not quite the weather for dunking your face in an ice-cold water fountain, but this could certainly be welcome come spring and summer.

Under new EU Drinking Water Directive, member states are required to offer more drinking fountains in parks, shopping centres and other public spaces - so don't be surprised if you see a few more of these springing up from February.

A public water fountain in a park in Hannover.

A public water fountain in a park in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

House crickets allowed in food 

We may all be consuming a few more insects this year. That's because certain types of insects are being added to list of acceptable ingredients used in food in the European Union.

Back in 2021, the dried yellow mealworm became a regulated food product, and this has more recently been followed by the grain-mould beetle larvae and the domestic house cricket. The EU points out that many cultures around the world regularly consume insects and that they can be a sustainable and nutritious source of protein.

But if you're keen to avoid them, never fear: the rules state that food companies have to state any use of insects clearly on their list of ingredients and also include allergen information for people who are allergic to crustaceans, molluscs, and house dust mites. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article included a section on electronic sick notes coming into force in February. These were in fact introduced in January so we've removed this section and we'll write a separate explainer on this topic. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

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Comments (3)

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Rachel Loxton 2023/01/31 09:04
Hi there, we changed those typos and have removed that comment. Thank you for your feedback.
Melody 2023/01/30 09:34
You've got two sort of important typos in this phrase: Ethic German immigrants (Spätausiedler) Should be: Eth(n)ic German immigrants (Spätau(s)siedler)
Ric 2023/01/27 23:29
I think the Ekelhaft comment is a bit unnecessary...

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