Corona summit: Germany to tighten contact restrictions after Christmas
For now, there will not be a lockdown. Instead, Germany’s federal and state governments have signed off a new batch of restrictions to help tackle the Omicron variant of COVID-19 over the Christmas holidays. Contact restrictions will soon apply to vaccinated and recovered people as well as unvaccinated people.
What are Germany’s new COVID measures as of December 21
Citing scientific evidence pointing to Omicron’s “unprecedented rate of infection” and ability to “undermine existing protection against infection”, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the heads of Germany’s 16 federal states agreed that the country was in a “very critical phase of the pandemic.”
"I can understand that people don't want to hear anything more about coronavirus, mutations, and new virus variants," Sholz said. "But we cannot close our eyes to the wave that will rear up in front of us."
"I would like to have given you better news before the holidays," the chancellor admitted, but the leaders came to the conclusion that parties and gatherings could not be allowed to continue unchecked this year, and so new restrictions were required Here’s an overview of what was announced at the press conference on Tuesday, December 21.
Recommendation to limit social contacts at Christmas
Ministers have made a slight concession and decided not to impose any additional contact restrictions over Christmas. Scholz justified this on the basis that previous experience had shown that holidays like Christmas and Easter did turn out to be major drivers of the pandemic.
Instead, the federal and state governments have issued only a recommendation, rather than a requirement, that everyone “limit” the number of people present at family gatherings, in the interests of safety. People are also encouraged to make use of coronavirus tests when meeting with friends and family.
The rules regarding gatherings including unvaccinated people will remain as they have been since the last coronavirus summit at the beginning of December: private meetings including at least one unvaccinated person are limited to one household plus a maximum of two people from another household, not including children under the age of 15.
New Year’s Eve: Tighter contact restrictions from December 28
After Christmas, however, things will get much tougher, with ministers deciding that large New Year’s Eve parties in particular would be “unjustifiable in the current situation”. For the first time ever, therefore, Germany has signed off contact restrictions for vaccinated and recovered people.
From December 28, a maximum of 10 vaccinated or recovered people will be allowed to meet in private, excluding children under the age of 15. If unvaccinated people are present, the rules are the same as before (i.e. one household plus a maximum of two guests).
A fireworks ban for New Year’s Eve was also agreed at the last coronavirus summit at the beginning of December, to help protect the healthcare system and emergency services. Large gatherings in public will also be prohibited.
Nightclubs to close
In some federal states, they’ve been shut for some time, but now the rule will apply nationwide: indoor nightclubs across Germany will be forced to close their doors from December 28, meaning large-scale New Year's Eve events will be off the cards.
Restrictions for major national events
Other large events - particularly football games and similar large-scale cultural events - will now have to take place without spectators, as was the case during previous lockdowns.
Full lockdown not yet on the cards for Germany
Full lockdown measures like those seen earlier this year - and now making a comeback in neighbouring countries like the Netherlands - are currently not planned for Germany. Non-essential shops, schools, bars and restaurants will remain open for the time being.
2G rules will remain in place in many public spaces, including bars, restaurants, and non-essential shops. Individual businesses also have the option to make use of 2G+ rules - meaning that even vaccinated and recovered people will also be asked to show a negative test result to gain entry. 3G rules are also still in effect on public transport and in workplaces.
States can go further
The federal and state governments agreed that these measures are nationwide minimum standards, meaning that individual federal states can also choose to enact tighter restrictions.
In Hamburg, for instance, the state government has already announced that the 10-person rule will apply from December 24, rather than December 28, and that restaurants and bars must close at 11pm.