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Switzerland: What Germany’s new Covid rules mean for cross-border shoppers

The escalating Covid situation in Switzerland’s northern neighbour has led to tighter measures in several states. What does this mean for people from Switzerland visiting Germany for shopping or leisure, i.e. Christmas markets?

A picture of German supermarket Rewe
Cross-border shopping and leisure in Germany from Switzerland is still possible, but the rules are tight. Picture: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Germany has been a popular shopping destination for people living in Switzerland’s border areas for decades, with German supermarkets and retail outlets offering much cheaper prices than those available in Switzerland.

Other than for petrol – which as The Local Switzerland reported recently is cheaper in Switzerland than in most neighbouring countries – most goods are cheaper in Germany. 

Fuel in Switzerland: Why are Germans crossing the border to fill up?

As of Wednesday, November 17th, the border state of Baden-Württemberg has put in place stricter measures as Germany struggles with a resurgence of the virus. 

This includes contact restrictions as well as replacing the 3G rule with a 2G rule, i.e. which requires that people are either vaccinated or recovered from the virus to take part in certain activities (i.e. negative tests are insufficient). 

3G refers to the German words for vaccinated, recovered and tested – geimpft/genesen/getestet – and has been used to describe the conditions required to take part in many activities in German-speaking countries. 

This will impact cross-border shoppers from Switzerland, as well as people visiting Germany for leisure – such as to attend Europa Park or visit the state’s Christmas markets. 

Keep in mind that you can use your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany, as Switzerland and the EU – of which Germany is a member – have agreed to recognise each other’s Covid passes. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What do I need to enter Germany? 

Although there is a 3G requirement to enter Germany, this is waived if you will be in the country for less than 24 hours. 

READ MORE: Is Switzerland likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

Therefore, unless it’s an excessively long shopping trip, you can enter without evidence of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

You do not need to fill in Germany’s entry form if you stay for less than 24 hours. 

Can people from Switzerland go cross-border shopping in Germany? 

Cross-border shopping in Germany is allowed, however the type of evidence you need to provide will depend on what type of shopping you will do. 

If you are visiting essential shops – i.e. supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations or bakeries – you do not need to show your Covid certificate. 

However, if you are shopping retail – i.e. non-essential stores selling electronics, clothes or other items – you need to be 3G compliant. 

What about meeting friends? 

Meeting people in private is restricted in Baden-Württemberg, unless you can show 2G compliance (recovered or vaccinated against Covid). 

If you are unvaccinated and not recovered from the virus, only one household can meet with one person. 

Couples who do not live together are counted as one household. 

What about Christmas markets? 

Generally speaking, you do not need a certificate to visit outdoor Christmas markets which are not fenced off. 

There are different rules in different states, however. 

State by state: Germany’s Covid rules for Christmas markets

In Baden-Württemberg, the rules are relatively tight. 

You can buy many of the arts and crafts which are on offer without a certificate. 

However, things change where the markets are fenced off or where you are consuming something, i.e. food or drink. 

Here, either 3G or 2G rules apply, depending on the Covid situation. 

Where the region is in the ‘warning’ area, the 3G rule will apply. 

If the region is in the ‘alert’ area, a 2G rule will apply. 

Several Christmas markets in Baden-Württemberg have already indicated they will adopt 2G rules. 

In Bavaria, things are comparatively relaxed. Generally speaking, you will not need to comply with 3G rules as long as you are outdoors, although fenced off areas and indoor areas may have 3G or 2G rules. 

Measures will be put in place on a regional level, so check ahead of time to see what rules will apply. 

What about cafes and bars?

Bars and restaurants in Baden-Württemberg have a 2G-plus rule in place. This applies on both the indoor and outdoor areas of the restaurant or bar. 

This means you need to be vaccinated, recovered from the virus or negatively tested with a PCR test. 

Antigen tests are not sufficient. 

READ MORE: What are the Covid rules for Switzerland’s Christmas markets?

What about everything else? 

3G rules are in place in hairdressers, 2G plus is required in hotels, and 2G rules are required in theatre, cinemas, clubs, concerts and museums. 

What about Europa Park?

If you’re headed to Europa Park over the festive season, you will need to comply with the 2G rule. 

Everyone aged 17 and under does not need to comply with this rule, however they will need to show a negative test to enter the park. 

Children aged 7 and under will not need to show a negative test. 

What do I need to show? 

Fortunately, you can show your Swiss Covid certificate in Germany due to a reciprocal agreement. 

As Germany still loves paperwork, any paper evidence you can bring will help, but the Covid certificate app should be sufficient. 

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UPDATE: German airports struck by travel chaos due to Friday strikes

For the third time in a month and the second time this week, the Verdi union has called for a walkout among ground staff at four German airports on Friday.

UPDATE: German airports struck by travel chaos due to Friday strikes

This time, airports in Cologne-Bonn, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, and Karlsruhe are experiencing travel chaos.

Passengers were told to expect delays and cancellations starting Friday morning at the four airports, when security and customs staff are expected to take part in the “warning strike.”

Flights taking off from five cities are affected – as Cologne and Bonn share an airport.

Stuttgart Airport has already cancelled all departures and arrivals for Friday, with regular operations due to resume Saturday. The airport is advising affected passengers to contact their airline directly and not come to the airport Friday.

As part of an agreement with the its workers’ union, Düsseldorf Airport is running a minimal, emergency service on Friday – so some flights will still go ahead, but will be severely disrupted. Many will still be cancelled altogether. Passengers are urged to check their flight’s status and to keep hand luggage to a minimum to speed up security screening – which will likely see severe delays. 

Cologne-Bonn, meanwhile, is expected to see cancellations and delays on both Friday and Saturday – due to how the shift schedules there work with the timing of the strike. Full service isn’t expected to resume there until Saturday afternoon. The airport says passengers should expect several cancellations, and to check directly with their airline to make any necessary alternative arrangements.

READ ALSO: What are your rights in Germany if a flight is delayed or cancelled?

The Verdi union, which called the strikes, is demanding a 10.5 percent pay rise – or an increase of at least €500 a month – for the public sector and aviation security employees it represents, to address rising cost of living.

Already this week, it brought air traffic going out of airports in Berlin, Hanover, Hamburg, and Bremen to a standstill. Only weeks ago, it staged walkouts at nine German airports, meaning that some of the affected airports this week have already seen their second strike in the space of a month.

The union’s warning strikes are being staged to put pressure on employers before the next round of collective bargaining on March 27th to 29th, following previous rounds that have broken down  – with the exception of a deal Deutsche Post recently struck with postal workers.

Verdi’s head in Baden-Württemberg, Hanna Binder, said of the strikes: “Without better working conditions, we will no longer find enough people willing to take up these jobs on ground crews.” These jobs are essential for air traffic safety in Germany, she added.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are there so many strikes in Germany right now?