The new virus variant will result in higher infection figures in Germany and large numbers of new patients in hospitals, said Federal Chancellor Scholz after the video conference with the Heads of Government of the Länder on the coronavirus situation: “This is why we have to prepare – and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Scholz stressed.
“We need further progress on vaccination”
The main focus is still on the vaccination and booster campaign, which needs to be promoted further. Scholz: “The best protection against the Omicron variant is a booster jab.”
The goal of 30 million vaccinations by Christmas had been achieved, he said: the aim was now to work towards the “ambitious” goal of organising another 30 million vaccinations by the end of January.
“We need further progress with vaccinations,” said Scholz. Progress had been made, he noted, but the “vaccination rate in Germany is still not very high.” Scholz said that at the Federation-Länder talks, participants were unanimously in favour of a general vaccine mandate. The Bundestag would discuss the matter soon, he said, adding that he would welcome “a blanket mandate as the final outcome”.
New rules for eating and drinking establishments
The Länder will soon implement new access regulations for eating and drinking establishments. Visits to restaurants and cafés will then only be possible for vaccinated and recovered persons who are able to present a same-day test, and for those who have received a booster jab (“2GPlus”). The latter do not have to present an additional test – and there is no waiting period from the day of receiving the booster vaccination.
The reason for this stricter ruling is that masks are frequently not worn in eating and drinking establishments, so there is a greater a risk of infection with the Omicron variant. Federal Chancellor Scholz described this as a strict but necessary regulation that would “help us control infections more effectively than we are doing at the moment.”
New quarantine and isolation rules due to Omicron
The Federal and Länder Governments also agreed to relax quarantine and isolation rules:
- Anyone who has had contact with an infected person but has received a booster vaccination will no longer have to go into quarantine. The same applies to those who have been vaccinated twice or those who have recovered, and whose last vaccination or illness occurred less than three months ago.
- Otherwise, the general rule is that isolation or quarantine ends after ten days for those with an infection and for contact persons. However, it is possible to get tested to be released after seven days by means of a PCR or a certified lateral flow test.
- These is some easing of restrictions for children and young people at pre-school daycare centres and schools. As contact persons, they can generally get tested to be released by means of a PCR or lateral flow test after just five days.
- Employees at nursing homes, hospitals and institutions working in the area of integration deal with particularly vulnerable people. Here, infected persons can get tested to be released after seven days, though a PCR test is required in this case. What is more, such individuals must also have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours beforehand.
The Federal Government and the Länder also agreed on the following:
- People are strongly advised to wear FFP2 masks in shops and when using local and long-distance public transport. These are particularly effective in preventing infection.
- The contact restrictions decided on before Christmas still apply: for vaccinated and recovered persons, private gatherings are allowed up to a maximum of ten persons. Those who are not vaccinated or recovered may only get together with members of their own household and a maximum of two persons from another household. Children under the age of 14 are not counted as part of this figure.
- The 2G rule continues to apply to admission to cultural and recreational activities and to shops. Shops selling groceries and convenience goods are exempt from this rule.
- The Federal and Länder Governments call on employers and employees to make greater use of work-from-home arrangements in the coming weeks in view of the infection situation. Working from home reduces the number of contacts both at work and while commuting.
- Financial support continues to be available for businesses affected by the coronavirus protection measures, including the new Bridging Aid IV.
The Federal and Länder Governments plan to meet again on 24 January to discuss the current pandemic situation and possible further steps.
Businesses affected by the coronavirus protection measures will continue to receive support. See here for a summary of the Federal Government’s economic aid programmes.