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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: German leaders plan new restrictions to fight Omicron wave

A draft plan ahead of Tuesday’s meeting between federal and state governments reveals tighter Covid restrictions are on the cards after Christmas.

Frankfurt's shopping street packed with people just before Christmas.
Frankfurt's shopping street packed with people just before Christmas. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hannes P. Albert

In light of the spread of the Omicron variant, the federal and state governments are set to discuss the Covid situation, and fresh measures to stave off a new wave of infections on Tuesday.

A first draft of a proposed resolution emerged on Monday, and it gives a glimpse of what Chancellor Olaf Scholz will discuss with state leaders.

It comes after the German government’s Covid Expert Council called for action “in the coming days”.

They said there was a need for “well-planned and well-communicated contact restrictions”.

READ ALSO: German government advisory panel urges fresh Covid measures to fight Omicron

Here’s what the draft proposals from the government and state leaders say. Keep in mind that they are subject to change before the final agreement is reached on Tuesday.

– The draft includes a plan for restricting social gatherings from December 28th for vaccinated and recovered people.  According to the plans, a maximum of 10 people would be allowed to meet privately – indoors and outdoors, not counting children aged 14 and younger from this date. “In particular, New Year’s Eve celebrations with a large number of people are not justifiable in the current situation,” the document says.

– As soon as an unvaccinated person attends a gathering, the contact restrictions for the unvaccinated would apply: meaning that meetings would be limited to your own household and a maximum of two other people from another household. However, this proposed regulation is still to be discussed in more detail.

READ ALSO: Is Germany heading for post-Christmas lockdown measures?

– The draft also includes a renewed appeal to the unvaccinated to get their jabs and for everyone who is eligible to get their booster shot, along with a call to continue the vaccination campaign over the holidays – with all health care providers such as doctors and pharmacies encouraged to participate. The proposals also call on people to quickly take advantage of offers for jabs for 5- to 11-year-olds.

– Operators of critical infrastructure (such as the health service, police and fire service) are asked to review their pandemic plans and ensure that they can be activated at short notice. There are fears that services will buckle if lots of people are off work at the same time when the Omicron wave hits.

– Indoor clubs and discos are to be closed from December 28th at the latest under the proposals.

– The plans also include an appeal to limit the number of contacts at family gatherings over Christmas, and for people to get tested before taking part in these kinds of gatherings with people outside their household.

– In their proposals, the federal and state governments also remind people of the ban on large gatherings on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, as well as the ban on fireworks on those days. The sale of fireworks before New Year’s Eve is banned, while setting off fireworks is discouraged. “The setting off of New Year’s Eve fireworks is generally strongly discouraged, in view of the high risk of injury and the already enormous burden on the health system,” the first draft states.

READ ALSO: 

– The government and state leaders will also discuss how to deal with major events, such as in sports or culture. It is expected that major events are to take place without spectators from December 28th at the latest.

– The nationwide 2G rule (only vaccinated or recovered people) or 2G-plus rule (vaccinated and recovered people have to take a test) will continue to apply to cultural and leisure facilities such as theatres, cinemas and restaurants, as well as in non-essential shops, under the proposals. 

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COVID-19 RULES

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”. 

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