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Germany looks to loosen stricter COVID measures

February 14, 2022

German leaders are preparing to ease anti-pandemic measures as the country eyes an end to the omicron wave, according to reports. A proposed three-step plan would gradually lift most restrictions by March 20.

German officials check people's proof of vaccination in at a public transport station in Munich
The report indicated that face mask requirements are expected to stay in place for the time beingImage: Sachelle Babbar/ZUMA Wire/imago images

Germany is planning a gradual relaxation of coronavirus measures in the coming weeks, with the relaxation planned in three steps.

National and state leaders are set to discuss the opening up plan on Wednesday, as the country sees a slight decline in new coronavirus infection rates.

What rules would be relaxed?

Initially, private meetings with more than 10 people would once again become possible. Then, from March 4, discotheques and clubs would be allowed to reopen. Access to restaurants would also be open to unvaccinated people if they can show a negative test.

Finally, from March 20, all of the more "far-reaching" measures would end. Rules that require employers to allow staff to work from home if possible would also be lifted from that date.

Some more basic restrictions, such as the wearing of masks on public transport and in indoor public places, are expected to remain in place.

According to the AFP news agency, a draft document that federal and state leaders will be asked to approve on Wednesday said most COVID-19 measures would end by March 20. 

"Broad restrictions of social, cultural and economic life should be gradually lifted by the start of spring on March 20, 2022," the agency cited the document as saying.

COVID: How divisive are vaccine mandates?

'Prudent' time for planning

An expert panel advising officials on pandemic measures said it expected "plateauing" and a subsequent "drop" in infection figures in the coming weeks.

"At this point in time, it is important to plan ahead for opening strategies and communicate these steps in an understandable way," the paper said.

"Scaling back state infection control measures appears prudent once there is a stable decline in hospitalization and intensive care admissions and occupancy."

However, experts warned that relaxing measures too soon would risk a renewed increase in the burden that the disease imposed on health care.

The state premier of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther, was among those voicing support for lifting the restrictions on Monday, advocating "a big step towards a normality that is comprehensible to everyone."

"The vaccinated and people who have recovered, in particular, can no longer be expected to endure restrictions on the scale they have been," said Günther. 

Germany reported over 76,400 new infections over the last 24 hours, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Monday — down 20% from the same day last week. The nationwide seven-day incidence dropped to 1459.8 from 1466.5 the previous day. Additionally, 42 new deaths were reported, taking the country's total pandemic-related deaths to 119,977.

rc/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)