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Monday, November 29, 2021

Travel to Germany: latest Covid rules and holiday advice

As numbers continue to rise sharply in Germany, particularly among the unvaccinated, the country is looking for ways to urgently slow the pace and boost its vaccination programme – with rules changing quickly. Focus is also turning to the festive season and events such as Christmas markets.

In August, a nationwide “3G rule” was introduced – and still forms the basis for current restrictions. Referring to the German terms geimpft (vaccinated), genesen (recovered) and getestet (tested), the rule requires people to provide proof of one of the Gs to enter many indoor environments, such as cinemas, museums, bars and restaurants. “Recovered” refers to the past six months.

Since its introduction, several variations on this rule have come into play across Germany’s sixteen states. This includes “3G-plus” which requires people to provide a negative PCR test rather than a rapid test, “2G” which excludes people who are only tested and “2G-plus” which excludes unvaccinated people and requires those who are vaccinated or recovered to also provide a negative test.

Note: Minors or those who are unable to get a vaccine for medical reasons are normally excluded from these rules. Free testing has now been reintroduced. 

On November 18, a new system was agreed. It was announced that states with more than three hospital admissions per 100,000 cases – the so-called Hospitalisierungsinzidenz (hospitalization incidence) – will have to apply 2G rules to public indoor leisure activities. Where the Hospitalisierungsinzidenz is above six, 2G-plus rules will apply and if it passes nine then further restrictions will come into play. 

Due to high numbers, Berlin, Saxony and Bavaria had already introduced 2G rules for bars and restaurants before these latest announcements. Bavaria has now also introduced lockdowns for districts where the seven-day Covid incidence rate is over 1,000 per 100,000 people. 

Additional regional variations in restrictions may also exist and are nothing new. Germany’s federal system has resulted in a patchwork of differing and ever-changing rules throughout the pandemic. It is therefore advisable to look into the measures for the area you intend to visit before you travel, as well as all the local figures.

Can I travel to Germany? 

Yes. Germany is categorised as low risk by the UK Government, meaning you can visit. The previous green and amber lists have been merged into a singular ‘Go’ category. 

In addition, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) no longer advises against non-essential travel to Germany – making it easier to obtain insurance.

Germany lifted its ban on passengers from the UK on July 7. The UK is now classified as a “high-incidence area,” which means “you may enter Germany from the UK for any travel purpose if you are fully vaccinated.” Travellers who are not fully vaccinated and do not meet one of the exemptions outlined by the FCDO may not currently enter Germany from the UK.

Are flights operating?

Yes, but in limited numbers. Currently, Lufthansa and Air Canada are running flights to limited destinations from Heathrow, including Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. EasyJet is running flights to Berlin from Manchester, while Lufthansa has resumed services between Birmingham and Frankfurt.

Will I be insured if I go?

As noted above, the FCDO has also lifted its blanket advice against all but essential travel to Germany, making travel insurance easier to come by. Always check your policy before purchase.

Do I need to take a test before travelling to Germany?

Yes if you are not fully vaccinated and eligible to visit. If travelling to Germany, the FCDO explains: “If you are travelling from the UK and are not fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, you will need to enter Germany with either a PCR test result that is no more than 72 hours old, or a rapid antigen or other test sample that is no more than 48 hours old.” 

Do I need to fill in any forms? 

All travellers from the UK must submit a pre-departure digital registration requirement, which can be found here.

Do I need to self-isolate on arrival? 

It depends on your vaccination status. The UK’s classification as a “high-incidence area” means arriving Britons can avoid quarantine if they can prove that they are fully vaccinated. According to the German Federal Interior Ministry website travellers must have received the last vaccination dose at least 14 days before the date of travel.

Those who have not received both vaccinations do have the quarantine but can cut the 10-day isolation short by testing negative after five days.

Essential tick-list: What do I need to travel to Germany?

Make sure you have the right paperwork and documents for your trip:

Before travelling, you will need:

  • Certification of your Covid vaccination – this is provided digitally (through the NHS app) or as a printout (this can be requested from the NHS by calling 119).
  • If you are not fully vaccinated but are eligible to visit Germany you will need a certificate of a negative PCR test (no more than 72 hours old), or a rapid antigen or another test sample that is no more than 48 hours old, in either paper or electronic form.
  • A completed pre-departure digital registration form, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Any additional non-Covid related visa/entry documents.

On arrival, you must:

  • If you are not fully vaccinated, you must enter quarantine for 10 days, with the option to test to release available after five days.

To return to the UK, you will need:

  • A completed passenger locator form.
  • If not fully vaccinated, you will need to take a pre-departure test, taken 72 hours before returning, and show a certificate before boarding your flight home.
  • If you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to self isolate for ten days when arriving from any country, taking a PCR test on day two, and another on day eight, with the option to ‘test to release’ on day five.
  • If vaccinated, a lateral test, taken within 48 hours of arriving back in the UK. You can find a full list of Government accredited companies here.

Exemptions may apply, and rules may vary for children. See the full FCDO travel requirements here.

Do I need to wear a mask?

Yes. Medical masks are still mandatory in many settings. In some states, such as Bavaria, FFP-2 masks are required.   

Masks must generally be worn indoors in all public places, when walking around restaurants and bars (but not at the table) and on public transport. It is also not uncommon to see people wearing masks outdoors, particularly in busier areas where they may previously have been required.

What are the rules for Christmas markets?

In 2020 cities across Germany couldn’t hold their beloved Christmas markets, leaving central squares and old-town streets eerily quiet over the festive period. This year there was hope that all would return, but cancellations have now begun.

In Bavaria and Saxony, it’s been announced that all markets will be cancelled and in Berlin, the Charlottenburg Palace market is off. 

Where markets are going ahead, 2G or 3G rules will likely apply. Other possible measures include designated entry points, wristbands, one-way systems, capacity limits and compulsory masks. Market stalls may also be more spaced out than normal. 

As measures can vary between places and are subject to change, always check the latest local rules before you visit. 

What are the rules in bars?

Visiting outdoor areas in bars remains relatively easy. However, the 3G rule,  and increasingly the 3G-plus or 2G rule, applies to indoor spaces.

In October, many of Berlin’s biggest clubs, including Berghain, fully reopened under 2G restrictions for the first time since March 2020. 

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