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We may never take a break with Covid. After a mostly unrestricted summer, which saw vaccination requirements lifted and other once strict rules scrapped, Germany will take a controversial decision from this fall and reinstate restrictions – among them, a mask mandate for the whole winter.
Although it has clearly shifted to more liberal policies, much like most of Europe, the German the homeland is no stranger to pandemic U-turns. Earlier this year he staged what was perhaps the most confusing reopening so far, relax the rules and then tighten themand possibly delete them completely – all in the same week.
Now, at least, we have a head held high:
Germany changes tack again
Germany is now one of the first European countries to reinstate Covid measures after lifting them during the peak travel season. The news was shared by the country’s Ministry of Health, which issued a press release informing the public that things are about to change once again in Germany, from October 1.
Essentially, senior health officials believe a different approach is needed to prevent a spike in infections through the fall and winter, a trend we’ve seen over the past two years. Germany is determined to avoid yet another wave, and the new proposal from the Ministry of Health will see masks make a comeback.
‘Fall and winter are associated with a seasonal increase in COVID-19 cases‘, reads the statement, ‘and with an increased burden on the health system and other critical infrastructure‘. This is true, as previous virus trends have indicated a overwhelming increase in some cases inevitably strains hospitals.
The texts conclude by adding that “modified rules are necessary” between October 1, 2022 and April 7, 2023, essentially throughout fall and winterr, as a protective barrier against the virus and its subvariants. Once the decision is implemented, Germany will join its EU counterpart Cyprus in strengthening mandatory mask use after initially scrapping it.
Why are masks necessary in winter?
Colder weather is a facilitator for pathogens that cause respiratory illnesses, like Covid, as they tend to spread more easily. It’s also a time when the number of indoor gatherings increases, especially during the holidays when different households mix, further fueling infections. Throughout the crisis, winters have been notoriously the harshest.
Last year, the arrival of Omicron prompted virtually all of Europe to restrict inbound travel after a free summer, and it appears that this pattern will repeat itself in 2022. While no particularly worrisome brand new variants have emerged, Omicron’s offspring has driven more rises across the continent, including in Germany.
Of course, the measure will be met with some resistance, both from locals who have had to navigate the Covid rules for nearly three years now, with varying degrees of tenacity, and from tourists growing up increasingly wary of countries where health requirements still apply – take a look at the low number of tourists to Canada lately.
Where will masks be needed?
Acting under the Infection Protection Act (IfSG), the German Ministry of Health will reinstate masks in the following settings:
- Long-distance public transportincluding intercity and cross-border trains and buses arriving in Germany
- Airports in Germany and within Germany, and to Germany flights
The document makes no mention of a return to wearing masks outdoors, although that also cannot be ruled out. Karl Lauterbach, the federal health minister, conceded that, if the situation “requires it”, masks may be made compulsory again at ‘outdoor events’. Moreover, the German governance model allows different states to enact their own rules.
The German states are free to apply social distancing rules in public spaces, as well as setting capacity limits for participation in large-scale events, although all of these proposals have yet to be assessed. There are 16 German states in total, and they’ve clashed many times before over their pandemic strategies, so It remains to be seen what the restrictions map in Germany will look like in a few months.
What about the rules for entering Germany?
At this time, the Department of Health has not advised the federal government to close borders, impose testing requirements or reissue a ban on unvaccinated tourists. Entering Germany today, Americans and other foreign tourists, European or otherwise, are not subject to any health checks on landing:
- No compulsory vaccination record
- No test before departure
- No health check forms
- No testing after arrival
- No quarantine regardless of vaccination status
However, judging from the German history of Covid policies, nothing is to be excluded for certainnm Travelers to Germany in autumn or winter are advised to follow all of Travel Off Path’s latest updates regarding European travel, as well as the official German government website, where entry rules are defined.
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