Almost all COVID measures to be scrapped by March 20 in Germany
German chancellor Olaf Scholz and the heads of the federal states have agreed to press ahead with the widespread easing of coronavirus restrictions in Germany. Here’s an overview of what was announced at the press conference after the COVID summit on February 16.
Step by step to Germany’s “Freedom Day” on March 20
After several hours of debate on Wednesday, Scholz emerged in the early evening to deliver the news everyone had been expecting: the ministers had agreed to end most coronavirus restrictions in Germany, step by step, by late March.
The legal basis for Germany’s current restrictions to combat COVID-19 is due to expire anyway on March 19, and so the ministers have decided to gradually remove restrictions step by step up to that date, giving them the chance to react should the situation in hospitals worsen in the meantime.
Here’s a brief explanation of what restrictions are being eased, and when.
Step one: Lighter contact restrictions and no more 2G rules in shops
Some federal states have already pressed forward with lifting 2G restrictions in non-essential shops, but this easing should now apply across the board. Instead of proof of vaccination or recovery, all shoppers will simply be asked to wear a medical mask, unless exempt. An FFP2 mask is recommended, but not compulsory, unless required by state law.
Contact restrictions will also be scrapped for vaccinated and recovered people. Currently, the guideline is that a maximum of 10 people can meet in private (although this does vary from state to state). This limit will no longer apply. However, the rule limiting gatherings of unvaccinated people (or vaccinated people if even just one unvaccinated person is present), to the members of one household plus two extra people, will remain in place. Children under the age of 14 are exempt from this.
Step two: 3G in restaurants, nightclubs can reopen from March 4
The second reopening step will commence on March 4. From this date onwards, 2G rules would be replaced by 3G rules in restaurants, bars and cafes. This means that unvaccinated people will also be permitted entry, so long as they can present a negative coronavirus test. The same will apply to overnight accommodation.
Nightclubs will also be allowed to reopen nationwide, under 2G plus rules. This means that entry is only possible for vaccinated or recovered people who are also able to present a negative test result or evidence of a booster shot.
The maximum occupancy limits will also be adjusted for major events - to 60 percent for indoor events and 75 percent for outdoor events, up to a maximum of 6.000 people indoors and 25.000 people outdoors.
Step three: “Freedom Day” as most measures lifted on March 20
From March 20, the third and final step will see all far-reaching protective measures scrapped, so long as the situation in the healthcare system allows. In addition to contact and access restrictions (including 2G and 3G rules), the obligation to work from home will also be ditched.
The only restriction that will stay in place is the obligation to wear a mask indoors as well as on public transport.
Pandemic "not over yet"
Olaf Scholz said that, despite the optimism and the planned relaxations this spring, the pandemic was not over yet. Autumn and winter will come back round again, and so the federal government still intends to prepare the necessary legislation to implement a vaccine mandate. "It will be necessary precisely when the weather starts to get colder again," he said.
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