German states tighten restrictions as COVID case rate hits 16th daily record

German states tighten restrictions as COVID case rate hits 16th daily record

The coronavirus incidence rate in Germany hit a record high for the 16th day in a row on Tuesday, November 23. A number of states have begun to tighten their rules, forcing - among other things - the cancellation of many famous Christmas markets. 

What COVID restrictions are in place in Germany’s states?

Germany is in the tight grip of a spiralling fourth wave of coronavirus. Tuesday saw the nationwide seven-day incidence rate climb to yet another new high of 399,8, up from 386,5 on Monday and 312,4 last week. New highs have been recorded every day since November 8, when the incidence was 197,6. The rate is currently doubling every two weeks. 

At the coronavirus summit on November 18, the federal and state governments agreed upon a stepped tightening of restrictions according to the hospitalisation rate per 100.000 inhabitants within seven days. 

From a rate of 3, 2G rules are to apply nationwide. From a rate of 6, 2G plus rules come into effect, meaning that entry to certain public places will only be permitted for vaccinated or recovered people who can also show a negative test result. On Monday, the Robert Koch Institute gave this nationwide hospitalisation rate as 5,28. 

However, the statistics do not fully show what is actually quite a mixed picture across Germany, with several federal states reporting a caseload far above the national average - mostly those in the south and east of the country - and others posting below-average infection rates. 

Some state premiers are reacting with tougher measures likely to particularly affect unvaccinated people, while others are taking a more lax approach. A patchwork of different rules is therefore slowly developing. Here’s a brief overview of what’s happening where. 


2G rules have been in force in Baden-Württemberg since last week, effectively excluding unvaccinated people from indoor areas at restaurants, non-essential shops, cinemas, theatres, galleries, swimming pools and nightclubs. Exceptions are made for children and people who can’t get vaccinated, for example for medical reasons.

Contact restrictions also apply to unvaccinated people, who are not permitted to meet up with more than five people at any given time. Children under the age of 17, vaccinated and recovered people, and people who can’t get vaccinated do not count towards this number. 

The state government is now planning a new “alert level” based on the number of people in intensive care and the hospitalisation rate. If this level is exceeded, 2G plus rules will apply in various areas - including hairdressers, bars, clubs, and Christmas markets - making them only accessible to vaccinated or recovered people with a negative test. In view of these new restrictions, a number of famous Christmas markets in the state, including those in Stuttgart, Esslingen and Ludwigsburg, have been called off last-minute.


Bavaria announced last week that it was cancelling all Christmas markets in the state as part of a toughening-up of coronavirus restrictions. Unvaccinated people are now only able to meet up with a maximum of five people from two different households. 

With the exceptions of retail, 2G rules now apply everywhere. Theatres, concert halls, sport stadiums and trade fairs are limited to a 25-percent occupancy rate, and must use 2G plus entry policies, while clubs, discos, bars, pubs and brothels will be closed for three weeks. Restaurants may stay open until 10 pm.

In districts with a seven-day incidence rate above 1.000 per 100.000 inhabitants, a lockdown has been ordered. 


2G rules have been in place in Berlin since last week - meaning only vaccinated and recovered people have access to restaurants, cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries, concert halls, sports facilities, amusement arcades, hairdressers and beauty salons, and gyms. This does not apply to children under the age of six, while young people aged six to 18 and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons can present a negative test result. 

From Saturday, 2G rules will also apply in shops, hotels and driving schools, with exceptions made for essential retailers like supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies. 

Ministers are also considering tightening the rules to bring the 2G plus into force - requiring even vaccinated and recovered people to provide a negative test result. If passed, this could come into force next weekend. 


Berlin’s surrounding state of Brandenburg is also toughening up its approach to unvaccinated people, by making 2G rules apply statewide in places like restaurants, theatres, concert halls, cinemas, casinos, hotels, city tours and boat trips. Children under the age of 18 and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons can present a negative test result. 

The state government is also extending 2G rules to retail as of Wednesday - not including essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies. All Christmas markets in the state have been called off. The 2G plus rule is in place for clubs and festivals. 

In certain COVID hotspots, a nightly curfew applies to unvaccinated people between 10 pm and 6 am. Nightclubs are not allowed to open in these regions. 


In Germany’s smallest state, Bremen - which also has the highest vaccination rate in the country - the situation is much less tense. The coronavirus warning level has actually fallen to the lowest level of 0, meaning that even 3G rules no longer apply indoors. Restaurants, theatres, clubs and sports facilities are allowed to make use of 3G and 2G rules as they see fit. 

In Bremerhaven, 3G rules apply in indoor areas. 


Hamburg extended its 2G regulation as of Saturday, so that only vaccinated and recovered people can enter certain public spaces like restaurants, bars, nightclubs, beauty salons and indoor sports facilities. From next Monday, the rule will also apply to theatres, cinemas, leisure facilities and hotels. 

“Essential” close-contact services like hairdressers, podiatrists and medical treatments are still accessible under 3G conditions, meaning unvaccinated people can present a negative coronavirus test. 


The rules are due to be tightened in Hesse from the middle of next week, making entry to indoor areas at restaurants, sports facilities or cultural and leisure institutions only possible for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus. 

Mask requirements will likely also be tightened, making them obligatory in schools, universities, hotels, cinemas and theatres. In nightclubs, revellers will require a vaccination or recovery certificate and a negative test result. 

Lower Saxony

Lower Saxony is also progressing to 2G rules across the board for events, leisure, cultural, gastronomic and sports facilities. This includes Christmas markets outside. Even with 2G rules in place, masks must still be warn as an additional protective measure.


Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has been making use of a so-called 2G option model for some time, allowing restaurants, bars and events to opt for 2G rules in exchange for omitting some protective measures like masks or distance requirements. 

In some cities and districts with a higher coronavirus warning level, however, 2G rules have become mandatory. Exceptions are made for children under the age of 12. 

North Rhine-Westphalia

Currently, 3G rules apply state-wide in North Rhine-Westphalia, but from next Wednesday 2G rules will be introduced across the board for the leisure and cultural sectors. In areas with a particuarly high risk of infection - such as nightclubs or carnival celebrations, a 2G plus requirement will apply, with exceptions for minors and those without a vaccination recommendation. 


With a few exceptions, Rhineland-Palatinate is preparing to apply 2G rules statewide from this Wednesday. 3G rules apply to young people aged 12 to 17. Following the federal government’s guidelines, 2G rules are to apply above a hospitalisation rate of 3, while 2G plus will kick in above a rate of 6. 


As of Saturday, 2G rules apply generally in indoor spaces in Saarland, including restaurants. In nightclubs, the 2G plus rule is in force. Masks are once again required in schools. 


Saxony, one of the coronavirus hotspots in Germany, has recently introduced a whole batch of tougher regulations. Apart from libraries, all cultural and leisure facilities, including bars and nightclubs, are closing. The same goes for Christmas markets. Restaurants may only remain open until 8 pm, and with 2G rules in place. Large events, festivals and trade fairs are prohibited, as are tourist train and bus trips. 

In hotspot regions where the incidence rate is above 1.000 new infections per 100.000 people, a curfew applies to unvaccinated people from 10 pm. Schools and daycare centres remain open, although they are being forced into restricted regular operations up to and including the school Christmas holidays

There are no restrictions for essential shops like supermarkets, pharmacies and drugstores, but other businesses in the retail sector must apply a 2G entry policy. Hairdressers must do the same, while all other close-contact services remain closed. 


Saxony-Anhalt is also switching from 3G to 2G. From Wednesday, all indoor areas will be open to only vaccinated and recovered people, with a few exceptions for sports and cultural activities. Children up to the age of 18 and people who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons are excluded from the requirement. The 2G plus rule applies in nightclubs, while Christmas markets are remaining open under 3G rules.


As of Monday, only vaccinated and recovered people have access to indoor areas at restaurants and leisure facilities in Schleswig-Holstein. Christmas markets and other major events remain possible for the time being. 


Thuringia - another COVID hotspot - is looking to its neighbour Saxony as an example. The cabinet had decided that bars, nightclubs, swimming pools, saunas and spas are to be closed, Christmas markets shut down, and a 10 pm curfew is to apply to restaurants.

Unvaccinated people are now subject to a 10 pm - 5 am curfew. They will also find themselves excluded from many areas of public life, as 2G rules are coming widely into force as of Wednesday, including for non-essential shops. In gyms, the 2G plus now applies. 

Check the latest rules

While we will endeavour to keep this page up-to-date, things are moving quickly given the dynamic infection situation. Be sure to check the latest rules and requirements in your local area. 



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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