SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19 RULES

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter
A sign on a train window tells customers to cover their mouth and nose on-board. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19 LATEST

First German states scrap face masks on public transport

Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt will drop the mask requirement on public transport and other German states could soon follow.

First German states scrap face masks on public transport

On Monday, German state health ministers met to discuss how to go proceed with Covid regulations this winter. But with regards to wearing masks on public transport, they were unable to reach an agreement.

As a result, on Tuesday, the states of Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria announced that they will get rid of the mask requirement in local public transport.

From Thursday, people in Saxony-Anhalt can ride buses and trains without masks – from Saturday in Bavaria. The cabinets of the two states justified their decisions on the basis of “a stable Covid infection situation”.

As of Tuesday, the 7-day Covid incidence – the number of new cases per 100,000 people – was 204.2 in the whole of Germany. In Bavaria, the 7-day incidence was 107.9 and 246.5 in Saxony-Anhalt.

READ ALSO: Two German states stop enforcing mandatory Covid-19 isolation

Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek said that a mask requirement for Covid protection is no longer proportionate. Instead, the Bavarian government will recommend people continue wearing masks, rather than obliging them to do so.

Bavarian state leader Markus Söder wrote on Twitter: “The infection situation has been stable for a long time.”

Saxony-Anhalt will also rely on voluntary mask-wearing in local public transport and the obligation will be dispensed with on Thursday, December 8th.  

Will more states follow?

Germany’s most northern state of Schleswig-Holstein plans to decide in the next week on whether or not to end the mask obligation on local transport. Prime Minister Daniel Günther already said recently that his aim was not to extend the mask obligation, which is limited until the end of the year.

However, the state governments of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania made clear on Tuesday that they intend to keep the mask requirement in place for the time being.

What about masks on long-distance transport?

One of the only Covid measures that have been in place nationwide this winter, is the requirement that passengers on long-distance transport still wear face masks. Under the current law, this will remain in place until April 2023.

However, the head of the rail and transport union (EVG), Martin Burkert, spoke out in favour of doing away with the mask requirement on long-distance trains as well.

READ ALSO: German opposition leader calls for official end to pandemic next year

“No one can understand anymore why masks are still mandatory on long-distance trains,” Burkert said.

“If the regulation is retained, there need to be checks by the federal police, not by railroad staff. While the federal states can decide for themselves whether masks are compulsory on local trains, the federal government is responsible for long-distance trains.”

SHOW COMMENTS