Corona summit: German leaders sign off end to free tests, 3G rule and more
At their first summit for several months, Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states have signed off plans on how to tackle coronavirus as the country heads into the tricky autumn months.
German government signs off new coronavirus strategy
It’s a sight we haven’t seen since the end of March: After a long summer break, the German chancellor and the state leaders met (via video call) on Tuesday to thrash out the details of a coronavirus strategy for autumn and winter.
The stated aim of the conference was to work out a way for the country to stave off a potential fourth wave of infections, whilst also avoiding a strict lockdown. In order to boost the vaccination rate, the leaders also want to put extra pressure on people to get themselves jabbed. Here’s a brief overview of what was decided on on August 10:
Phase-out of free rapid tests
As was widely expected, it has been agreed that the state should no longer be expected to cover the cost of rapid tests after everyone in Germany has been offered a vaccination. As of October 11, therefore, rapid tests will only be offered free of charge to those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, or people for whom there is no general vaccination recommendation - for instance children under the age of 18 or women who are pregnant.
Dealing with unvaccinated people: The 3G rule
Germany will also use another means to make everyday life more inconvenient for unvaccinated people, by introducing the so-called “3G rule." This means that, from August 23, only those who are vaccinated, recovered, or tested (geimpft, genesen, getestet) will be allowed to access certain facilities, including indoor sports facilities like gyms and swimming pools, indoor areas at restaurants, cinemas and theatres, close-contact services like hairdressers and beauty salons, religious services, and hotel accommodation. Visitors will also need to follow the same rules at hospitals and nursing homes.
There will be exceptions for students who are tested regularly, and regions with low incidence rates.
For non-vaccinated people, this means that regular testing will be required to be able to participate in public life. "Those who have not been vaccinated will have to be tested regularly if they meet other people indoors," the resolution paper states. The test should either be a rapid test, no more than 24 hours old, or a PCR test taken no more than 48 hours ago. Unless exempt (as outlined above), the individual will have to cover the cost of the test themselves.
Distance, hygiene and mask requirements will remain in place in some areas, for instance on shops or on public transport.
Pandemic situation and phase-out of the incidence rate
With the epidemic situation still at a critical stage, in the opinion of the Chancellery and the state premiers, Germany will also extend the Infection Protection Act beyond its current expiry date of September 11. This means the government will continue to retain special rights of intervention without the Bundestag having to approve each measure.
A further change will also be made: Up until now, the seven-day incidence rate has pretty much exclusively been the deciding factor when it came to tightening or relaxing restrictions. But with more than half of Germany’s population now fully vaccinated, and the link between the virus and mortality or hospitalisations thereby reduced, many experts are saying that case numbers are no longer the sole useful measure.
The government therefore wants to take additional factors into consideration when deciding if new measures are necessary, for instance the number of people in hospital, the number of intensive care patients, and the vaccination rate.
Decision on flood relief
The state leaders also discussed the issue of financial relief in the aftermath of Germany’s worst flooding disaster for decades. A total of 30 billion euros, jointly financed by the federal and state governments will go towards rebuilding affected regions.