Hamburg to tighten Covid measures from Christmas Eve

Hamburg is set to toughen its Covid rules from December 24th in a bid to prepare for the Omicron wave.

Chairs stacked at a restaurant in Hamburg.
Chairs stacked at a restaurant in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Reinhardt

The German government and state leaders were on Tuesday discussing new nationwide Covid measures which they propose could come into force on December 28th.

But the northern city state of Hamburg has announced it plans to tighten the rules from Christmas Eve to prepare for the expected fifth Covid wave.

From December 24th, 10 people will be allowed to meet in Hamburg and restaurants and bars will have a curfew of 11pm.

Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) said the aim was to try “to contain this spread as best we can”.

Here’s a glance at some of the planned measures in Hamburg:

– Contact restrictions for the vaccinated and recovered: up to 10 people will be allowed to meet in private (not including children under 14).

– Contact restrictions for the unvaccinated will continue: people who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated will still be only allowed to meet with people from their own household plus two people from another household.  

– Dance events will not be allowed (affecting nightclubs and similar venues).

– A curfew of 11pm will apply to restaurants, pubs, bars . On New Year’s Eve, the curfew is 1am.

– Major events will take place without an audience.

– From 3pm on December 31st until 9am on January 1st, there will be a ban on fireworks and firecrackers.

– During the same period, there is also a ban on gathering: a maximum of 10 people are allowed to meet or stand together in public spaces.

The Hamburg Senate said FFP2 masks are recommended in all indoor spaces – including under 2G conditions (in areas where only vaccinated and recovered people are allowed), as well as on public transport. 

According to social affairs senator Melanie Leonhard (SPD), there are currently hundreds of suspected Omicron cases and 28 confirmed Omicron cases in the Hanseatic city.

READ ALSO: Germany eyes limits on NYE parties to combat Omicron

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

Germany will end the requirement to wear face masks on long-distance trains and buses from February 2nd as the coronavirus pandemic loosened its grip on the country, authorities announced on Friday.

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

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made the announcement after consultations with ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states, saying “the infection situation has stabilised.”

Lauterbach, however, encouraged people to continue wearing masks voluntarily “on the basis of personal responsibility”, adding “the virus should not be trivialised” and warning of potential longer-term impacts.

Several factors contributed to the policy change, Lauterbach said, including a higher level of immunity in the public and a reduced chance of new mutations, which meant a winter resurgence of the virus was unlikely.

The situation is “tense but manageable” in hospitals, Lauterbach added.

The requirement, which has been in place since the early stages of the pandemic, had been scheduled to expire on April 7nd but will now end sooner.

A number of German states – including Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein – have already relaxed mask rules in regional public transport, while several others are set to do so at the start of February. 

READ ALSO: Several German states to drop Covid masks on public transport in February

However, rules on the country’s long-distance train and bus network remain the central government’s responsibility.

Germany was one of the few remaining countries in Europe to keep a mask requirement, with many having scrapped rules or downgraded them to recommendations in 2022.

Alongside Germany, Spain is the only other large European country to maintain mask rules on long-distance trains and public transport, with the Spanish government announcing in October that these will remain in place until at least March 2023.

Free “test-to-release” tests to end 

In another key move away from pandemic measures, the government has also announced that people will have to pay for their Covid tests in order to end self-isolation from January 16th.

Medical staff who need to test before returning to work and visitors to clinics and care homes will still receive their tests free of charge until February 28th. 

Self-isolation rules vary from state to state, but some require a negative test if people want to stop isolating after five days instead of the full ten.

These are currently funded by the government, but funding is due to end on January 15th. 

The news comes after a group of five states announced that they would be ending mandatory self-isolation for people infected with Covid.

Instead, people will be required to wear masks while out and about and observe social distancing rules. 

READ ALSO: Four German states poised to end mandatory Covid isolation