Masks, clubs, socialising: Which German states are relaxing COVID rules?
Cases of coronavirus are continuing to tumble in Germany, and so a number of federal states are moving to relax restrictions on masks, contacts, and even nightlife. Here’s an overview of what’s happening where.
German states announce easing of coronavirus restrictions
Several of Germany’s states announced this week that they would further relax restrictions on public life, in view of falling infection rates. The majority of states are scrapping the mask requirement for outdoor areas, while in some states, school pupils will also no longer be required to wear mouth and nose coverings.
And in some areas, even more openings are on their way, as nightclubs were given the green light to reopen their doors, after more than a year of shutdowns. Here’s what’s been announced so far:
Under certain circumstances, students in Baden-Württemberg will no longer have to wear masks in class from next week. State Health Minister Manne Luche said on Tuesday that the new rules would apply to all types of schools, so long as there has been no coronavirus infection at the school for two weeks and the incidence rate in the region is below 35.
Elsewhere, the southwestern state is likely to move slowly on relaxing restrictions - and will almost certainly make a distinction between indoor and outdoor areas. State premier Winfried Kretschmann warned this week that relaxing rules too quickly could bring on a fourth wave of infections. “Let’s not be too cocky,” he said. “Otherwise we will pay bitterly.”
Bavaria is joining its neighbour in toeing a cautious line, and will only lift the mask requirement for outdoor areas (i.e. playgrounds) at schools. Indoors, the requirement will remain in place, and state premier Markus Söder appears to have no plans to relax restrictions anywhere else for the time being. “I advise restraint here,” he said on Monday. However, in the state capital of Munich, the requirement to wear masks in inner-city areas was scrapped on June 9.
Berlin has decided to bid goodbye to some of its mask requirements. On Tuesday, the capital’s Senate decided that masks would no longer have to be worn in zoos, and on busy shopping streets and squares, but would remain mandatory in outdoor areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Wearing an FFP2 mask will continue to be obligatory on public transport. When it comes to schools, leaders have indicated that indoor mask requirements will remain in place until at least two weeks after the summer holidays, but this has not yet been confirmed.
The state parliament in Brandenburg this week signed off a number of relaxations: As of June 16, the mask requirement no longer applies in outdoor areas, and children no longer have to wear masks in primary schools and after-school clubs. The mask requirement will remain in place indoors, but not if social distancing can be maintained while seated. Events with up to 1.000 guests are therefore possible again, so long as participants’ contact details are recorded.
Nightclubs can also reopen, with a limited number of people and strict hygiene requirements. The contact restriction that limits gatherings to a maximum of 10 people will also be scrapped. The general recommendation is now to avoid large gatherings and to meet with the same group of people as much as possible, preferably outdoors. All of these easings will remain in place so long as the seven-day incidence rate remains below 20.
Bremen is also easing more restrictions than just masks: as of Monday, June 21, it should be possible for up to 10 people to meet (rather than the current five). The mask requirement will only apply outdoors at bus stops and train stations; indoors and on public transportation, people must continue to wear mouth and nose coverings. However, the mask requirement is being lifted for employees in childcare, and pupils and employees at secondary schools - although some schools may still require them in common, high-traffic areas like corridors and stairwells.
Other facilities such as saunas, swimming pools and brothels will be allowed to reopen if appropriate hygiene concepts are in place. Up to 250 people can take part in indoor events and up to 1.000 in outdoor events.
With one of the lowest infection rates in the whole country, Hamburg has also decided to loosen the rules on mask-wearing. Mouth and nose coverings will no longer be required outside, except on the weekend in busy areas. The rules will remain the same for weekly markets, indoor spaces, and public transport. Mask requirements at schools are unlikely to change before the start of the summer holidays next week.
Despite the positive developments in the coronavirus numbers, there’s no end in sight for the mask requirement in Hesse. This was announced by the Ministry for Social Affairs and Integration: “The federal emergency brake applies, like the current Hessian regulation, until the end of June 2021.” In Frankfurt, however, the mask requirement has been scrapped for outdoor areas, except for bus stops.
The state premier of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil, wants to keep the mask requirement in place for the time being. Weil emphasised that coronavirus still poses a risk, especially considering the virus mutations. In future, he said, masks could potentially be scrapped for outdoor areas, but not indoors.
However, the state government is planning to loosen contact restrictions at an incidence of less than 10, to allow up to 25 people to meet inside and 50 outside. At weddings and similar celebrations, there should no longer be any limit to the number of participants.
As of next week, masks will no longer be required outdoors in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This was confirmed by state premier Manuela Schwesig on Tuesday. As of June 11, private meetings of up to 30 people are allowed, not including children, vaccinated and recovered people, and up to 100 people may attend a family celebration at a restaurant. Cinemas, circuses, flea markets and swimming pools have all already been allowed to reopen. There’s good news for tourists as well: they now only need to present a negative coronavirus test upon arriving in the state.
Masks will soon no longer be required outside in North Rhine-Westphalia. Germany’s most populous state is also one of the few to relax mask requirements on public transport. From now on, you only need to wear a medical mask (rather than an FFP2 mask) to ride on public transport in North Rhine-Westphalia. Pupils will no longer be required to wear masks in classrooms.
Rhineland-Palatinate is also lifting the mask requirement in classrooms for all age groups. The new regulation will apply from next Monday and stay in place as long as the state’s incidence rate remains below 35, State Education Minister Stefanie Hubig confirmed. The mask requirement will also be scrapped in outdoor areas across the state.
As of June 18, up to 25 people will be able to attend events like weddings (with a test if indoors), and from July 2, the contact restrictions will be eased to allow gatherings of up to 10 people (up from five currently). Events involving up to 75 people will be allowed outdoors and indoors (with a test), if the incidence remains below 100. If the incidence falls under 50, up to 100 people will be allowed to attend outdoor events.
Saarland will lift the mask requirement during class from next Thursday, but masks will still be required inside school buildings and on buses. The mask requirement and alcohol ban that applies to public outdoor areas will also be lifted.
With a new coronavirus regulation, the state of Saxony has relaxed a number of restrictions as of Monday, June 14. The rules depend on the incidence rate in your local area. In a nutshell, compulsory testing is no longer required if the incidence rate stays below 35 on five consecutive days. This applies to things like private celebrations (up to 50 participants), sports facilities, swimming pools and restaurants. Nightclubs are also allowed to reopen if the incidence is below 35, but tests will still be required.
The new ordinance also scraps mask requirements in schools, so long as the incidence rate remains below 35.
The infection situation also means that a number of restrictions are being eased in Saxony-Anhalt. From this weekend onwards, contact restrictions will be lifted and replaced with the recommendation to avoid large gatherings and meet with the same group of people as much as possible, preferably outdoors. Private celebrations with up to 50 participants will be allowed without tests, and events of up to 1.000 people outdoors or 500 people indoors will also be allowed, but tests are required.
FFP2 masks are no longer required on public transport; a medical mask will suffice. Swimming pools, fitness studios, gyms and the like can reopen, as can discos, indoor playgrounds and saunas, so long as attendees present a negative test. “You can dance again,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s Minister of Economics, Armin Willingmann.
Schleswig-Holstein will not lift mask requirements in schools until at least two weeks after the summer holidays. Minister of Education Karin Prien said that this is an important buffer for those returning from holidays abroad.
Elsewhere, however, restrictions are being relaxed. Swimming pools, saunas, cinemas and flea markets, among other things, can now reopen under certain conditions. Events with up to 500 participants are allowed inside, and up to 1.000 attendees outside. If fixed seating is not available, the numbers are reduced to 125 inside and 250 outside.
The state of Thuringia has relaxed restrictions as of June 2. In areas where the incidence rate is below 35, masks only have to be worn indoors at schools, and testing is no longer mandatory at events, restaurants, theatres, concerts, cinemas, gyms, saunas and swimming pools. Nightclubs may also reopen if the local authority has given its approval. Testing will also be mandatory.
Check the rules in your local area
With coronavirus restrictions in Germany still tied to the seven-day incidence rate in each district and city, there’s bound to be a lot of variation from place to place. If in doubt, check the latest advice on the website of your local authority.