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KEY POINTS: Germany finalises new Covid restrictions for winter

Acting Chancellor Angela Merkel met with German state leaders on Thursday to set out new measures Germany for tackling the fourth Covid wave. Here's what they decided.

A bar in Stuttgart says entry is only for the vaccinated or people who've recovered from Covid.
A bar in Stuttgart says entry is only for the vaccinated or people who've recovered from Covid. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Vanessa Reiber

Germany is seeing a dramatic rise in the number of daily Covid infections, as well as in increase in Covid-related deaths and hospital admissions. 

The federal government and 16 states have agreed on a new set of measures to curb the fourth wave, having received input from the incoming coalition government. 

It comes as pressure is growing from health experts and doctors who say some hospitals are reaching their limits. 


2G and 2G plus

If more than three hospitalisations per 100,000 people occur in a region per week, 2G rules are to be introduced. These rules have already been announced in some states, including Berlin and Bavaria, but the draft proposals want to see uniform rules and thresholds across the board.

It would mean that in many public places access would only be granted to people who are vaccinated against Covid (geimpft) or have recovered from Covid in the last six months (genesen). Unvaccinated people would not be allowed to enter. 

According to the paper, the states – taking into account the regional infection incidence – would allow access to the following areas only for the vaccinated and recovered: leisure, cultural and sporting facilities, events – especially indoors – as well as hospitality, body-related services (such as hairdressers) and hotels.

READ MORE: 2G and 2G plus: Germany to tighten restrictions on the unvaccinated

If weekly hospitalisations exceed six per 100,000 people, the 2G-plus rule is to apply. That means that vaccinated and recovered people would have to take a test to enter certain places.

The measure would come into force “in places where the risk of infection is particularly high”, says the draft. It would likely apply in situations where it’s easier to spread the virus, like in clubs or packed indoor events. 

READ ALSO: Germany is in the grip of ‘dramatic’ Covid situation, says Merkel

If the hospitalisation incidence reaches nine, states can make use of tougher measures, such as contact restrictions or restrictions or bans on events.

According to the RKI, the nationwide hospitalisation incidence is 5.30 Covid patients per 100,000 residents. 

As of Friday, all federal states except Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland were above the incidence of three. Bavaria is above the incidence of six, while Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia are above nine.

Strict controls and higher fines

The government and states say the entry measures have to be strictly checked. Venue or event managers and operators are responsible for checking documents like proof of vaccination, recovery or tests, the draft says. The states have to set their own fines.  

Compulsory vaccination for health and care workers

The heads of the 16 federal states said mandatory vaccinations should be carried out “on a facility-by-facility basis” for staff in hospitals, old people’s and nursing homes, and in mobile care services if there is contact with people who are particularly at risk.

The states consider such a duty “necessary” and have asked the federal government to implement it “as soon as possible”.

“We need to provide additional protection for vulnerable groups in particular,” the resolution says. 

READ MORE: German states call for mandatory Covid vaccinations for health workers

3G rule in public transport

As well as the current mask requirement, the 3G rule is to be introduced on local public transport and trains, as proposed by the incoming coalition government made up of the Social Democrats, Greens and FDP. 

If passengers are not vaccinated (geimpft) or have not recovered (genesen), they will have to carry proof of a negative Covid-19 rapid test (gestestet) with them when using the bus or train, for instance, and show it on request. The test would have to be no older than 24 hours at the start of the journey.

The agreement states that the federal states will ask for more guidance from the federal government on how to enforce this.  

READ MORE: How 3G rules could work on public transport

Further measures for Covid hotspots

The resolution states in that in Covid hotspots, the states should be able to “make consistent use of the more far-reaching possibilities of the Infection Protection Act and […] take necessary measures”.

The measures are not further defined in the paper. However, Germany’s incoming coalition government is setting out a catalogue of measures in a reform of the Infection Protection Act.

The incoming coalition also wants to give states the choice of using measures like contact restrictions if they need. But curfews and school closures would be ruled out.

READ ALSO: Germany’s next government struggles as Covid fourth wave hits

People queuing to get a vaccination in Staucha, Saxony.
People queuing to get a vaccination in Staucha, Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Financial aid from the federal government for vaccination centres

The agreement calls for a new appeal to the public to get vaccinated, and for vaccination services to be expanded. Those who have already been vaccinated should receive a booster jab “in a timely manner”.

Meanwhile, the government should continue to provide financial support for vaccination centres and other vaccination facilities until the end of April 2022.

The federal government will provide FFP2 and surgical masks, as well as antigen tests and other pandemic containment material, to the states and districts free of charge, if needed.

Compulsory daily tests in nursing homes – plus care bonus

Employees and visitors to nursing homes would have to undergo more regular Covid testing under the plans – even if vaccinated. 

And nursing staff are to receive a cash bonus. Care workers are also to be paid better in future, the states and federal government say.

Working from home or 3G at the workplace

Employers will have to ask staff to work from home if they are not needed in their workplace, under the incoming coalitions plans which will also be discussed by states and the government.

For those who go into the workplace, 3G rules will apply nationwide. It means employees have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test before being allowed in. 

On top of this, regular testing should also be available from the employer free of charge. 

Special attention to children

The states and government want to try and avoid further restrictions on children.

“Schoolchildren and younger children have suffered particularly from the consequences of the pandemic,” says the government and states. 

Regular testing will continue in schools as a protective measure – through lollipop PCR testing which is less evasive than other tests. 

Economic aid to be extended

The government and states plan to extend the ‘bridging assistance’ for companies or self-employed people impacted by the pandemic until March 31st 2022. 

Further scrutiny of new measures 

On Thursday, the Bundestag voted through an amended version of the Infection Protection Act. If the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament – proceeds to vote these through on Friday, it will enshrine a number of measures such as the 3G in the workplace and on public transport into law. 

The conservative CDU/CSU parties have aired concerns about the strength of the measures set out in the amended legislation, which was put forward by the incoming ‘traffic light’ coalition parties. Earlier in the week, they had threatened to withhold support for the new amendments in the Bundesrat, though the parties now appear to have reached a compromise whereby the measures will be kept under review.

According to North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Hendrik Wüst, the new Covid measures will be reviewed at the next meeting of the state leaders on December 9th at the latest.

The states have allegedly received a promise from the likely next chancellor, Olaf Scholz (SPD), that politicians will then be able to review whether the catalogue of measures was sufficient to combat the ferocious fourth wave.

Wüst stressed that this evaluation was essential for the CDU/CSU-led federal states. In Chancellor Merkel’s view, the states should also reintroduce contact restrictions if the situation worsens.

In her opinion, the catalogue of measures adopted by the Bundestag does not go far enough to replace the powers set out in the ‘epidemic situation of national scope’, which will expire on November 25th.

READ MORE Political row snags German bid to tame Covid surge

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For members


End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”.