EXPLAINED: How Hamburg is relaxing its Covid rules

Germany’s second largest city is relaxing its coronavirus rules on Tuesday, reflecting an improving epidemic situation in the harbour city.

EXPLAINED: How Hamburg is relaxing its Covid rules
People on the Hamburg harbour front in late May. Photo: dpa | Georg Wendt

The Hamburg city senate has agreed a whole host of new relaxations to its pandemic rules, which will come into force at midnight on Tuesday.

The city justified the move by saying that “infection rates have stayed stable in recent weeks despite the lifting of many restrictions.”

The relaxations to the rules come as the northern city-sate has a current rate of 11 cases per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days.

Gatherings & events

Starting Tuesday, ten people from different households will be able to meet indoors again. Up until now only five people from separate households have been allowed to meet inside.

People who have recovered and those who are fully vaccinated are not bound by the restrictions, nor are children.

Gatherings of up to ten people outdoors are already allowed.

Any gathering larger than that is treated like an official event. That means that people still need to present a negative test when they arrive and have to wear face masks when standing.

Weddings, which are considered to be events without fixed seating, can take place outdoors with up to 250 people, or up to 50 people indoors.

For events with fixed seating, there will now be a limit of 500 guests for outdoor events and 100 guests indoors.

Dining & shopping

In the gastronomy sector, people are allowed to eat and drink once again while standing. Indoor diners will still have to provide a negative test result. Everyone will have to provide contact details for contact tracing purposes.

Large stores can also now allow in double the amount of shoppers – up from one person per 20 square metres to two people per 20 square metres.

Tourism, sport, religion

Some sporting activities will become considerably easier: the city will once again allow indoor contact sport with up to ten participants.

People taking tours of the city or its harbour will no longer have to provide a negative test, while they will only have to wear medical masks rather than FFP2 masks.

There is also good news for religious communities: singing will once again be allowed in the city’s churches and other places of worship.

SEE ALSO: Hamburg to open restaurants earlier than planned as Covid incidence falls below 50 mark

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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”