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Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

With the current, scaled-back Covid measures due to expire on September 23rd, the German government is discussing a successor to the Infection Protection Act. We break down which measures are likely – and unlikely – to reappear in autumn.

An FFP2 mask lies in the autumn leaves on a street in the city center in Bavaria.
An FFP2 mask lies in the autumn leaves on a street in the city center in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

What’s going on?

Though it may have largely disappeared from the headlines, Covid has by no means vanished over the summer. On Wednesday, the 7-day incidence in Germany was still around 700 infections per 100,000 people, though the real number of cases is likely to be much higher. There are still an average of 100 Covid-related deaths every day.

As people return from holidays, children go back to school and temperatures begin to drop in September, the infection numbers are expected to rise again. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has already warned of a “catastrophic” development of the virus if no suitable measures are adopted before autumn.

His ministry has spoken out about a plan to combat Covid, but it still hasn’t been decided what the infection protection laws will contain.

READ ALSO: Key points – German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Mask wearing

Currently, mask wearing is only mandatory on public transport and in facilities with risk groups such as clinics and nursing homes, but it looks extremely likely that it will once again become mandatory to wear a mask in most indoor areas in the colder months.

At the beginning of July, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) said that it was likely that the new Infection Protection Act would again include a far-reaching mask requirement, while Chancellor Olaf Scholz told ARD in his summer interview: “I believe that one must already assume that the mask will already play a greater role in the fall and winter than it does now.”

READ ALSO: The Covid mask rules in Germany 


Health Minister Lauterbach has already said there will be a new vaccination campaign in the autumn and recommended that people under 60 get their fourth injection.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

There are currently no approved vaccines in the EU which are adapted to specific Covid variants, though the EU Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently conducting trials for a Covid vaccine that is adapted to the Omicron variant.

Pharmacist Julia Oks-Heidar vaccinates a man against the Covid at the Kosmos Apotheke. Around 500,000 people in Lower Saxony have so far received a fourth vaccination against Covid. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

If these trials prove successful, it could be that we see variant-specific jabs being recommended later in the winter. At the moment, however, it is not yet known exactly which variants will dominate in Germany in winter.

Vaccination Status

One thing that is already clear, is that, from October 1st, those who have not received their Covid booster vaccination will be considered unvaccinated. 

The EU Covid digital vaccination certificate will be shown as invalid for domestic use when checked with the CovPass or Corona-Warning app.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

2G and 3G rules

Last winter, 2G and 3G rules were in place across much of Germany. The 3G rule meant passengers had to be fully vaccinated (geimpft), recovered from Covid (genesen) or have a recent Covid test (getestet), while 2G entry restrictions meant that only those who had been fully vaccinated or were recovered could enter venues such as restaurants and sporting facilities.

Things got even more complicated with 2G+ rules when restrictions were tightened to allow only boosted and fully vaccinated or recovered people with a test into certain venues.

According to a resolution paper of the state health ministers obtained by Bild newspaper at the beginning of July, a return to 2G or 3G rules this autumn also seems possible.

Bild quoted from the paper: “If, due to an unfavourable development of the Covid pandemic, the basic measures for the protection of the health system are not sufficient, the states must be able to take further containment measures. These include access restrictions, submission of proof of immunity and testing, and person limits.”


The German government scrapped free Covid testing at the end of June and, since then, taxpayer-funded rapid Covid-19 tests are no longer free of charge except for certain groups of people, including those who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons. 

People in Germany can now pay a reduced fee of €3 for a test for private use, including for visits to family celebrations, concerts or other indoor events, or if they get a red notification on their Covid warning app, or if they plan to meet someone over the age of 60 or people with a pre-existing illness or disability.

Following the new rules, the German Association of Towns and Municipalities immediately called for free Covid tests to come back in the colder months. 

Chief Executive Gerd Landsberg told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland at the beginning of July: “We assume that by the autumn at the latest, when the next big wave of Covid threatens, there will have to be free tests again across the board.”

A woman sticks a sign on a glass wall saying that Covid tests cost €3. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Dunker

At the moment, it is still unclear whether tests will become free again. It’s likely that this decision will be taken into consideration along with whether or not to reintroduce 2G and 3G rules, which were scrapped in March.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany


The reintroduction of lockdowns looks unlikely, with both the Justice Minister and Chancellor Olaf Scholz having rejected the idea.

In his summer interview with ARD, the German Chancellor said: “There should be no more school closures, and I don’t think we need the kind of lockdown we’ve had in recent years.” We now have a “completely changed situation,” Scholz said, referring to a vaccination rate of 76 percent in Germany.

The prospect of new lockdowns was outright rejected by Justice Minister Bushman: “In my view, based on everything we know, lockdowns, school closures, and curfews are no longer proportionate today…we are in the third year. And if we know today that these measures have a very poor cost-benefit profile, then we should say goodbye to them for good,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid lockdowns in Germany shouldn’t be ruled out, says expert

Quarantines and isolation

At the moment, anyone infected with Covid has to isolate for at least five days and up to a maximum of ten days.

Whether this will continue into the autumn is currently the subject of intense debate for German politicians.

Politicians from the liberal FDP party, along with the chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, are in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

However, the Greens’ health politician Saskia Weishaupt and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach are currently against ending the isolation obligation, with Lauterbach deeming it a potential “safety risk”.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

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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