EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Germany’s new nationwide Covid-19 rules

Germany is introducing national 'emergency brake' rules for areas with high Covid-19 rates, which includes most of the country. Here's what it means.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Germany's new nationwide Covid-19 rules
People in Leipzig on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

The German parliament on Wednesday passed a controversial amendment to the Infections Protection Act to give Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government power to impose tougher anti-coronavirus measures.

The changes were approved by the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states, after a heated discussion on Thursday. The bill is a so-called Einspruchsgesetz, which means it didn’t require the consent of the Bundesrat to get through.

It will now be presented to federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who has to sign it. It’s expected that it will come into force in the coming days.  We’ll keep you updated on the process.

What’s the aim of the nationwide emergency brake?

The law prescribes that if the number of new infections per 100,000 residents in seven days (7-day incidence) rises above 100 in a city or district for three days in a row, tough measures, including shutdowns and overnight curfews must be applied.

Until now, these measures – although agreed between the government and states in Covid meetings – were the state’s responsibility to implement. But this has led to a patchwork of different rules.

In recent weeks many state leaders have dragged their feet and continued to keep parts of public life open despite the raging third wave.

The government says it is trying to “significantly reduce contacts and slow the spread of the virus in the event of an increased incidence of infection”.

What exactly are the measures?


A night-time curfew would go into place between 10pm and 5am in areas with an incidence above 100 under the rules. The government says only those with a “good reason” should be outside during this time. Exceptions include medical emergencies, walking the dog and professional reasons (for example taxi drivers or going to work). Jogging and walking remain permitted until midnight if you are out alone.

The government had previously talked about a 9pm curfew but this was softened due to pressure from opposition parties including the Free Democrats.

READ ALSO: These are the planned changes to Germany’s ’emergency brake’ coronavirus rules


Essential shops like supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies remain open. Above a 7-day incidence of 100, they will have to close at 10pm in affected regions because a curfew will apply.

Non-essential shops, such as clothes shops and department stores, must close to customers at an incidence rate of 150. But they can stay open for staff to provide delivery or collection services. Customers don’t need a negative Covid test to pick up an item form a shop.

If the incidence is below 150, it is possible to shop at non-essential outlets with an appointment (click and meet) and with an up-to-date negative Covid rapid test result.

Note that in the service sector, everything that is not explicitly prohibited will remain open, for example bike and car repair shops, banks and post offices.

Private meetings

Members of a household can only meet with one other person. However, no more than five people in total are allowed to meet privately (children up to 14 years are not included).

Meetings between members of the same household and spouses or civil partners are also permitted.

Up to this point, many parts of Germany have allowed a household to meet with another household with a maximum of five people.

A maximum of 30 people can attend funerals.

Sports, leisure and culture

Only non-contact sports are allowed outdoors (alone, in pairs or with members of the household). The exception is children up to 14 who can play contact-free sports outside in a group with up to five other children. 

Amusement parks, indoor playgrounds, swimming pools and other facilities remain closed. The same applies to theatres, operas, concert halls, cinemas, museums, exhibitions and memorials.

Outdoor areas of zoos and botanical gardens can remain open if hygiene concepts are worked out – in addition, guests over the age of six need a negative rapid Covid test.


Employers need to allow people to work from home and employees must accept the offer under the new rules.

Those who cannot work at home must be offered a test once a week by the company. Those who are in frequent contact with customers are entitled to a maximum of two tests per week.

READ ALSO: Free Covid tests for staff – These are Germany’s new rules for employers


In districts that reach a 7-day incidence above 100 infections per 100,000 residents, a mix of in-person and digital teaching must be put in place.

From an incidence of 165, school closures and distance learning apply. “No face-to-face teaching when the incidence is over 165,” said the government.

READ ALSO: German teachers call for stricter school closures as part of country-wide Covid measures

Which areas are affected?

Around 352 out of 412 German districts and cities have a 7-day incidence over 100. Some areas already have tougher measures in place. Check with your local government to in the next few days to find out if any different measures apply. 

READ MORE: Where are Covid-19 cases going up (and down) in Germany?

You can also keep an eye on the Robert Koch Institute’s dashboard which shows the number of cases per 100,000 people over seven days in districts on the left hand side.

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End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”.