Germany to impose sweeping new Covid curbs on the unvaccinated

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain the fourth wave of Covid-19, including closures of clubs in badly-hit areas and banning unvaccinated people from almost all parts of public life.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a Christmas tree in the chancellor's office.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a Christmas tree in the chancellor's office on November 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

“Culture and leisure nationwide will be open only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered (from Covid),” Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a meeting with the country’s regional leaders.

Merkel said the same rule – known as 2G in Germany – would also apply to the retail sector. It means that people who are eligible for vaccination but choose not to get it will be barred from entering non-essential shops across the country. 

There will also be contact restrictions ordered on the unvaccinated. 

Merkel added that clubs and discos would have to close in areas with a high Covid incidence.

The outgoing Chancellor also spoke out in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which parliament is due to vote on soon.

“Given the situation, I think it is appropriate to adopt compulsory vaccination,” she said.

Merkel, her designated successor Olaf Scholz and the leaders of 16 states tightened Covid restrictions just two weeks ago, but met again on Thursday to discuss tougher measures.

“You can see from the decisions that we have understood the situation is very serious,” Merkel said, adding that the measures should be seen as “minimum standards” and different regions could also impose their own tougher curbs.

She said there needed to be an “act of national solidarity” in Germany to reduce the number of infections.

READ ALSO: German leaders plan crackdown on unvaccinated to tackle surge

What else do we know about the rules?

Merkel said there would be nationwide restrictions for the unvaccinated. Private gatherings in public or private spaces involving unvaccinated people or those who haven’t recently recovered from Covid will have to be restricted to the person’s own household and no more than two people from another household.

Children up to the age of 14 are exempt.

2G rules for culture and retail

As we mentioned above, only people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from an infection will be allowed to enter shops and cultural and leisure events. The 2G rule, which is already in place in some states, is to be extended nationwide and will apply regardless of incidence. The rule would also apply in the retail sector, with the exception of shops for daily needs.

The unimmunised will also be banned from Christmas markets.

Clubs to shut 

Clubs and similar venues are to be closed in areas where the Covid incidence rises above 350 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

It is understood that, if the incidence exceeds this threshold, states can adopt stricter measures such as bar and restaurant closures, alcohol bans and restrictions on gatherings as well. 

Lockdowns possible

Following the scrapping of the ‘epidemic situation of national importance’ – a legislative clause that gave the states the power to implement lockdowns and other measures – the new government will amend the Infection Protection Act yet again to allow for future lockdowns.

This means that the current lockdowns in Saxony and Bavaria can continue beyond their current December 15th expiry date if necessary. 

Nationwide obligation to wear masks in schools

In schools, masks are to be compulsory for all grades – even in places where they have not been so far.

Pharmacists and dentists could give shots in future

The government and states want to see dentists, pharmacists and nursing staff be allowed to vaccinate against Covid.

Restrictions on major events

The number of spectators for sports, cultural and other major events will be significantly restricted. In future, a maximum of 30 to 50 percent of the seating capacity can be used. Indoor events can have a maximum of 5,000 visitors and outdoor events a maximum of 15,000.

Fireworks ban on New Year’s Eve

Like last year, the sale of firecrackers and fireworks on New Year’s Eve will be banned again this year in Germany. This is aimed at supporting emergency services and avoiding gatherings of large crowds. 

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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”.