Germany’s new set of coronavirus rules for autumn and winter went into effect on Saturday as the country readies for a rise in cases during the colder months.
FFP2 masks are compulsory on long-distance trains for those over the age of 14, whereas surgical masks had previously been sufficient. On the other hand, mask mandates have been dropped for planes, in line with an easing across other EU countries and airlines since summer.
FFP2 masks are now mandatory in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. In nursing homes and hospitals, a negative test must be presented before entry. Employees must be tested several times a week.
From Saturday, local authorities will have the power to introduce compulsory mask-wearing in local trains and buses as well as in indoor areas such as shops, restaurants and function rooms.
At schools and daycare centers, tests can be made compulsory, while a mask requirement can also be introduced but only from grade five (age 11) onward, if it is necessary to maintain in-person classes.
If the infection situation worsens, states have the power to impose further measures.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Friday that Germany was already “clearly at the beginning of an autumn and winter wave” but that the country was better prepared than a year ago.
The president of the Robert Koch Institute disease control agency, Lothar Wieler, expressed similar sentiments at the joint press conference with the health minister. He called for vigilance and attentiveness, but also said he did not “actually have a huge worry.”
Lauterbach appealed to authorities in the 16 states to keep a close eye on case trends in order to find the right time for countermeasures, such as reintroducing indoor mask mandates in businesses.
He described the Covid-19 rules as particularly strict by European standards. “Germany is not smarter, but more cautious,” he said in response to a question.