Which German states are relaxing COVID rules and which aren't?

Which German states are relaxing COVID rules and which aren't?

Some states in Germany are beginning to relax measures to curb the spread of coronavirus - while others are standing firm, and still others are waiting to see. 

What are the current coronavirus rules in Germany?

In announcing that it would begin loosening some COVID restrictions, the state of Bavaria has fired the starting pistol for relaxations. As calls mount for some of Germany’s tougher restrictions to be scrapped, a number of federal states are pressing ahead with their own reopening strategies, without waiting for the outcome of discussions at the summit on February 16. 

The majority of states have now scrapped 2G rules in nonessential shops. The regulation is only now in place in three federal states. Here’s an overview of what’s happening where, and when. 


Despite the high number of coronavirus cases, the situation in hospitals in Baden-Württemberg remains relaxed, and so since January 28, the southwestern state has been in “Alert Level 1”, meaning 2G plus only applies at events with more than 3.000 participants. 2G rules have been scrapped in retail.

However, 2G and 3G rules still apply to many other areas of public life, and the contact restriction of one household plus five other people remains in place. The state government plans to ease measures from mid-February, depending on the situation in intensive care units. 


On Tuesday, February 8, more restrictions will be relaxed in Bavaria, including the enforced opening hours for restaurants and bars - although 2G rules will remain in place. More spectators will be allowed at sports and cultural events and regulations for hairdressers and other close-contact services are being loosened. 2G rules are being scrapped for non-essential shops. 


New rules are also in effect in Berlin. At hairdressers, customers will be able to choose between a test and a mask, and exceptions are made for those who have been recently boosted or vaccinated, or have recently recovered from COVID. 2G plus continues to apply to the hospitality, leisure, culture and sports industries. FFP2 masks need to be worn on public transport and in universities

However, the Senate has opted to abolish 2G rules in retail from February 9, and replace them with an FFP2 mask requirement. 


Relaxations have been announced in Brandenburg, where the state government plans to lift the 2G rule for non-essential shops from February 9, and replace it with an FFP2 mask requirement. The state government is also considering scrapping the curfew for unvaccinated people in regions with a high infection rate. 2G plus rules will likely stay in place in restaurants, and 3G rules will continue to apply in other areas like outdoor spots. 


2G plus rules will remain in place throughout the state of Bremen, in hospitality, culture and leisure facilities, until at least February 13, along with an FFP2 mask requirement. Masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops, and 3G rules apply on public transport and in workplaces. Nightclubs remain closed. However, the 2G rule in retail is likely to be scrapped from February 11. 


Hamburg has had 2G plus rules in place since January 10, with exceptions made only for those with a booster shot. There are currently no plans to relax the strict requirements for public spaces like restaurants, theatres, concert halls, cinemas, swimming pools and gyms, but 2G rules in shops are being phased out from February 12. 


Hesse relaxed restrictions on February 6. 2G rules in shops have been scrapped, but an FFP2 mask requirement is now in place. 2G plus continues to apply in cinemas, restaurants and indoor sports facilities, where capacity restrictions are also in place. However, the mask requirement and alcohol ban for busy pedestrian zones has been scrapped. 

Lower Saxony

Strict COVID rules continue to apply in Lower Saxony. In some places, they are even being tightened, with all children above the age of three asked to test at least three times a week from February 15. 2G plus is in force almost everywhere in the state, while FFP2 masks are mandatory indoors. On the other hand, 2G rules no longer apply to non-essential shops. 


In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a traffic light system is in operation that adjusts measures according to the infection situation. If hospitalisations fall below 3 per 100.000 residents, the state will move to “green” - just having 3G rules for close-contact services, and a mask requirement on public transport and retail. Under “yellow”, 2G plus rules apply inside at restaurants, while 2G rules apply to most other areas, including events, sports, culture and leisure facilities. 

The northeastern state is currently on “orange”, and so 2G plus rules apply in all the areas that are 2G under “yellow”. 

From February 12, however, the 2G rule in retail is to be replaced by a mask requirement. 

North Rhine-Westphalia

No easing is on the horizon in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the state government is still pursuing the aim of curbing the spread of Omicron. That means that unvaccinated people are limited to meeting the members of their own household plus a maximum of two other people, while vaccinated people can meet in groups of up to 10, not including children under the age of 13. 

2G plus applies in restaurants, swimming pools, saunas and thermal baths. 2G applies to retail, museums, memorials, cultural and leisure facilities, sporting events, close-contact services (except hairdressers), and tourist overnight stays. 3G applies on public transport, in schools, integration courses and libraries, at weddings and funerals and at demonstrations. 


Rhineland-Palatinate is also sticking firmly to restrictions, with unvaccinated people allowed to meet a maximum of two people outside of their household, and vaccinated and recovered people limited to a maximum of 10. 2G rules apply in retail, and children must wear masks in lessons. 2G plus applies to indoor areas at restaurants and cultural events, while 2G applies to outdoor areas at restaurants and hairdressers. 3G is in place on public transport and in canteens. 


The same contact rules are in place in Saarland (unvaccinated people limited to members of their own household plus two people, while vaccinated and recovered people are limited to 10 guests). Instead of 2G rules, an FFP2 mask requirement is now in place in shops. FFP2 masks must also be worn in supermarkets and drugstores, on public transport, at train stations, airports, bus stops and waiting areas. 

2G plus applies to indoor culture and leisure activities, restaurants and hotels, swimming pools, thermal baths and saunas, and for visitors to nursing homes and hospitals. 2G applies in driving schools, integration courses, outdoor cultural and recreational activities, and dog schools. 3G applies on public transport, at work, in universities and at training courses. 


Since February 6, Saxony has had a new coronavirus ordinance in place, which calls for tougher restrictions should more than 420 intensive care beds or 1.300 normal hospital beds be occupied by COVID patients on two or more consecutive days. If this limit is breached, 2G plus rules will apply in restaurants, while 2G will be in place in retail and other official businesses (with the exception of banks), as well as in zoos and botanical gardens. Nightclubs will be forced to close. 2G rules no longer apply in retail. 


Coronavirus regulations are staying in place in Saxony-Anhalt for the time being, until at least February 24. This means that 3G is in place in most areas, while 2G is in operation in restaurants and shops, and children in schools must wear masks and test daily. 


Schleswig-Holstein will relax its COVID measures on February 9, so that in the future 3G rules will replace 2G in nonessential shops. There will no longer be an enforced closing time for restaurants, and choirs and bands can practise without face masks, under 2G plus rules. Compulsory testing will be introduced in childcare facilities, while the mask requirement will remain in place in schools. 


Things are also being relaxed in Thuringia, where as of February 7 there will no longer be contact tracing in restaurants, and 2G rules will be replaced almost across the board with 3G rules - with the exception of swimming pools and saunas, where 2G policies will remain in place. 

COVID rules across Germany far from uniform

Despite promises to the contrary, Germany’s federal states are once again assembling a patchwork quilt of coronavirus regulations that differ from place to place. The focus at the coronavirus summit on February 16 will be to try to align rules nationwide, but previous experience suggests that might be a tall order for Chancellor Olaf Scholz. 

Remember that COVID rules can change quickly from place to place, so if in doubt consult with your local authority for the most up-to-date guidance. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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