(May 12, 2021) On May 9, 2021, the Ordinance to Regulate the Easing of and Exceptions to Restrictions on Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 (COVID-19 Restrictions Exceptions Ordinance) entered into force in Germany. The ordinance restores some rights regarding private gatherings, curfews, and sporting activities of people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are recovering from COVID-19, or can show a negative COVID-19 test result. However, people covered by this ordinance are still obligated to wear a mask, adhere to social distancing rules, and follow hygiene and safety protocols.
The newly inserted section 28c of the Infectious Diseases Protection Act authorizes the federal government to adopt ordinances, with the consent of the German Bundestag (parliament) and the German Bundesrat (the constitutional organ through which the German states participate in the legislative process) regarding special rules for vaccinated people or people with a negative COVID-19 result. The government relied on this legal basis and adopted the COVID-19 Restrictions Exceptions Ordinance in an expedited procedure. The German Bundestag debated and adopted the draft ordinance on May 6, and the German Bundesrat followed suit one day later. The ordinance was published in the Federal Gazette (Bundesanzeiger) on May 8, 2021, and entered into force the following day.
Content of the COVID-19 Restrictions Exceptions Ordinance
The ordinance differentiates between fully vaccinated/recovered persons and persons with a negative COVID-19 test result. Someone is considered fully vaccinated when
- he or she is asymptomatic,
- he or she has a digital or physical vaccination card,
- the vaccination card shows that he or she has been vaccinated with a vaccine on the list of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, and
- 14 days have passed since the last required dose or, in the case of recovered persons, one dose of a vaccine has been administered. (COVID-19 Restrictions Exceptions Ordinance § 2, nos. 2, 3.)
A recovered person is an asymptomatic person who has digital or physical proof of a previous COVID-19 infection shown by a PCR, PoC-PCR, or similar test that is at least 28 days old and not older than six months. (§ 2, nos. 4, 5.) A tested person is a person younger than six years of age or a person who has a digital or physical test certificate showing a negative COVID-19 test result. Only in-vitro tests that are a maximum of 24 hours old are accepted. The test must have been performed on the premises of the test performer, who may be either the person enforcing the safety measures, the employer, or a person authorized according to section 6, paragraph 1 of the Coronavirus Testing Ordinance. (§ 2, nos. 6, 7.)
The following exceptions to the generally applicable COVID-19 restrictions are in place only for fully vaccinated and recovered persons:
- There are no limits on private gatherings of fully vaccinated and recovered persons.
- Fully vaccinated and recovered persons do not count as “additional persons” for gatherings in private spaces with other people.
- The curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. does not apply to fully vaccinated and recovered persons.
- Exercising by a fully vaccinated or recovered person is not limited to contactless sports that can be practiced alone, with two people, or with the members of the person’s household. (§§ 4–6.)
Restrictions on gatherings, curfews, and quarantine measures imposed under state law are also repealed for fully vaccinated and recovered persons. (§§ 8–10.)
In addition, the easing of or exceptions to restrictions that are applicable to people with a negative COVID-19 result under federal or state law apply to fully vaccinated or recovered persons. (§§ 3, 7.) State governments are authorized to enact further measures to ease restrictions on or exempt people who have been fully vaccinated/recovered or have a negative COVID-19 test result unless the COVID-19 Restrictions Exceptions Ordinance provides otherwise. (§11.)