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BAVARIA

EXPLAINED: Bavaria to ease some Covid restrictions

The German state of Bavaria has announced some Covid relaxations, including allowing up to 10,000 spectators at major events.

EXPLAINED: Bavaria to ease some Covid restrictions
Bavaria state premier Markus Söder attends the online state cabinet meeting. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Bavaria’s cabinet decided on Tuesday to lift the ban on spectators attending large events like football matches. 

From Thursday onwards, a quarter of seats can be filled at big events – such as football games and major cultural events, head of the Bavarian state chancellory Florian Herrmann (CSU) said in Munich.

However, there are strict rules including that the number of spectators can’t go over 10,000. 

Admission will also be subject to the 2G-plus rule, meaning that only vaccinated/recovered people can attend and they have to either bring evidence of a negative Covid test or be boosted. 

There will also be a ban on alcohol and people will be urged to keep a distance from others.

According to state health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), only seating will be allowed, not standing arrangements.

Before Christmas, the federal and state governments had agreed that major events should take place without spectators. However, this was not implemented across all states.

After Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state leaders failed to reach an agreement on this issue at the Covid crunch talks on Monday, Bavaria decided to go in its own way and allow fans into stadiums again.

KEY POINTS: How Germany will tackle latest phase of the Omicron wave

More capacity in culture

Cinemas, theatres and similar venues will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity instead of 25 percent.

Herrmann called the change in capacity a “moderate increase that can be well justified”. At the same time, 2G-plus indoors will remain for cultural venues, while the state will stick to 2G entry for hospitality. 

Most other German states have 2G-plus in the hospitality sector meaning that people who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid have to show proof of their booster shot or a negative Covid test when going to a restaurant or bar.

Bavaria has already got rid of 2G in shops following a court ruling that said the regulation was not clear enough. 

Changes to youth services and driving schools

The cabinet also said that unvaccinated pupils can attend youth services, as well as the vaccinated. Children and young people are regularly tested at school like no other population group, Hermann said. 

Meanwhile, the 3G restriction will apply to exams and classes, as well as theory and practice lessons at driving schools. It means that unvaccinated people will also be able to attend if they have a negative test, as well as those who have vaccinated or have recovered. 

It comes after the federal and state governments agreed to stick with the current Covid measures, with Chancellor Scholz saying it was important to stay on course. 

READ ALSO: Germany to keep current Covid measures – but change testing strategy

However, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, German states tend to interpret agreements in their own way. 

On Twitter, state leader Markus Söder said that the changes being implemented by Bavaria were to “adjust and simplify”.

“But protection remains high with 2G-plus and FFP2 masks,” he said. “Pupils can also make use of all the offers of youth work again thanks to regular school tests, because social participation is important.”

Bavarian state ministers said the occupancy of intensive care beds by Covid-19 patients had dropped by 18 percent within a week. They said the situation would be monitored closely. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

Germany's highest court ruled on Thursday that the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rule for employees in health and care sectors is constitutional.

Germany's top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

From mid-March this year, health and care workers in Germany have had to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered. 

If they can’t provide this proof they face fines or even bans from working – however it is unclear how widely it has been enforced due to concerns over staff shortages. 

On Thursday the constitutional court rejected complaints against the partial vaccination mandate, saying the protection of vulnerable people outweighs any infringement of employees’ rights.

The law covers employees in hospitals as well as care homes, clinics, emergency services, doctors’ surgeries and facilities for people with disabilities. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid vaccine mandate for health staff

The court acknowledged that the law meant employees who don’t want to be vaccinated would have to deal with professional consequences or change their job – or even profession. 

However, the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid as a health or care worker is constitutionally justified and proportionate, according to the judges.

They said that’s because compulsory vaccination in this case is about protecting elderly and sick people. These groups are at increased risk of becoming infected by Covid-19 and are more likely to become seriously ill or die.

The protection of vulnerable groups is of “paramount importance”, the resolution states.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach welcomed Thursday’s ruling and thanked health care facilities who have already implemented the vaccine mandate. He said: “The state is obliged to protect vulnerable groups”.

Course of the pandemic doesn’t change things

According to the ruling, the development of the pandemic in Germany is no reason to change course. 

The court based its decision on the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and medical societies, stating that it could still be assumed that a vaccination would protect against the Omicron variant.

It’s true that the protection of vaccines decreases over time, and most courses of disease are milder with the Omicron variant. Nevertheless, the institution-based vaccination obligation remains constitutional because, according to the experts, the higher risk for old and sick people has not fundamentally changed.

A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote held in April

MPs had been allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue rather than having to vote along party lines. 

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