We might be never catching a break from Covid. After a mostly restriction-free summer, which saw vaccination requirements being lifted and other once-stringent rules scrapped, Germany will be making a controversial move beginning this fall and reinstate restrictions – among them, a mask mandate for the entire winter.
Although it’s clearly shifted to more liberal policies, much like most of Europe, the Deutsch fatherland is no stranger to U-turns when it comes to the pandemic. Earlier this year, it staged what’s been perhaps the most confusing reopening so far, loosening rules only to tighten them afterwards, and eventually scrap them altogether – all in the same week.
Now, at least we’re getting a heads up:
Germany Is Changing Tactics Once Again
Germany is now one of the first European nation to reinstate Covid measures after having lifted them during the peak travel season. The news were shared by the country’s Ministry of Health, who issued a press release informing the public things are about to change in Germany once again, as soon as October 1st.
Essentially, top health officials believe a different approach is required to prevent a surge in infections throughout autumn and winter, a trend we’ve seen in the last couple of years. Germany is determined to avoid an umpteenth wave, though, and the Ministry of Health’s new proposal will see masks making a comeback.
‘Autumn and winter are associated with a seasonal surge in COVID-19 cases‘, reads the statement, ‘and with an increased burden on the health system and other critical infrastructure‘. That much is true, seeing that previous viral trends have indicated an overwhelming increase in cases inevitably puts a strain on hospitals.
The texts concludes by adding that ‘modified rules are required’ between October 1st, 2022 and April 7th, 2023, essentially throughout fall and winter, as a protective barrier against the virus and its sub-variants. Once the decision is implemented, Germany will join EU counterpart Cyprus in reinforcing mandatory mask usage after initially removing it.
Why Are Masks Necessary During Winter?
Colder weather is a facilitator for pathogens responsible for respiratory diseases, such as Covid, as they tend to spread more easily. It is also a period where the number of indoor gatherings increase, particularly over 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 clamp down on incoming travel after a free summer, and it looks like this pattern will repeat itself in 2022. Although no brand new variants that are particularly worrying have emerged, Omicron’s offspring have led to more upticks across the continent – including Germany.
Of course, the measure will be met with some resistance, both from locals who have had to navigate Covid rules for nearly three years now, to varying degrees of toughness, as well as tourists who are growing increasingly wary of countries where health requirements still apply – just take a look at Canada’s poor tourist numbers lately.
Where Will Masks Be Needed?
Acting under the Infection Protection Act (IfSG), Germany’s Ministry of Health will reinstate masks in the following settings:
- Long-distance public transport, including intercity and cross-border trains and buses arriving into Germany
- Airports within Germany and on intra-Germany, and Germany-bound flights
The document makes no mention of a return to mask wearing outdoors, though that cannot discarded either. Karl Lauterbach, the Minister of Health at a Federal level, conceded that, if the situation ‘requires it’, masks can be again made compulsory at ‘outdoor events’. Additionally, Germany’s model of governance allows different states to enact their own rules.
German states are free to enforce social distancing rules in public spaces, as well as define capacity limits for large-scale event attendance, though all of these proposals are yet to be appraised. There are 16 German states in total, and they have clashed on a number of occasions before in regards to their pandemic strategies, so it remains to be seen how the restriction map in Germany will look like a couple of months from now.
What About Germany’s Entry Rules?
At this moment in time, the Health Ministry has not advised the Federal Government to seal off borders again, impose testing requirements, or re-issue a ban on unvaccinated tourists. Entering Germany today, Americans and other foreign tourists, European or not, aren’t subject to any health checks upon landing:
- No mandatory vaccination certificate
- No pre-departure testing
- No health control forms
- No post-arrival testing
- No quarantine irrespective of vaccination status
However, judging by Germany’s history of Covid policies, nothing can be ruled out for certain. Travelers going to Germany in the fall or winter are advised to follow all the latest Travel Off Path updates regarding travel to Europe, as well as the official German Government website, where entry rules are set out.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com