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.
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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.”
Mehr Eigenverantwortung: Ab Samstag entfällt in Bayern die #Maskenpflicht im ÖPNV. Stattdessen gilt eine Empfehlung. Der Vorschlag von Gesundheitsminister @klausholetschek ist richtig. Die Infektionslage ist seit langem stabil. Wir orientieren uns damit am Beispiel Österreichs.
— Markus Söder (@Markus_Soeder) December 6, 2022
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.
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“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.”