The German officials have agreed to allow visitors who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from the infection to avoid testing and quarantine when entering the country, unless they come from areas where variants of concern are prevalent.
Non-vaccinated people will also be allowed to end their quarantine early if they test negative. This change was approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet on Wednesday. The measures are designed to make summer travel more relaxed, especially for families when parents are vaccinated and children aren’t.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country expects to launch its digital immunity certificate by the end of June, making it easier to prove a person has been fully vaccinated. The vaccination certificate can be stored in the app which can be used instead of the yellow World Health Organization booklet. The goal is for it to be compatible with a vaccine certification system being developed by the European Union.
“If we manage to do this for the EU in the coming weeks, then we’ll likely set a global benchmark,” said Spahn, adding that other nations have yet to agree a system at the national level.
When asked whether Germany would recognize travellers’ certificates for vaccines not authorized for use in the 27-nation EU, Spahn explained that this would depend on whether the shot reduces the risk of infecting others. Vaccines such as Germany’s BioNTech and U.S. Pfizer which are approved by the European Medicines Agency, have been proven to both protect from serious illness and significantly decrease transmission of the virus.
“The vaccines approved outside of Europe need to prove that they can reduce the infection risk to a similar extent,” said Spahn. “If that’s the case then I have no problem with equating them (with EMA-approved shots), but I want to have proof.”
After a slow start at the end of last year, Germany has significantly accelerated its rate of vaccination. 5 million doses were administered in the country over the last week and the government aims to double the numbers as the vaccine supply grows.
Official figures as of Monday show that a third of Germany’s 83 million residents had received at least one dose, while nearly 10% had received both doses.
Many German states are preparing to relax Covid-19 restrictions in regions where less than 100 weekly cases per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded.
Starting May 21, Bavaria’s governor will allow open-air cultural events with up to 250 people and pre-booked swimming in outside pools.
The head of Germany’s disease control agency warned against complacency, noting that the country still has about 1,000 COVID-related deaths a week.
“If we open too early, then the virus will keep spreading,” said Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute.
14,909 newly confirmed cases and 268 deaths were reported by the agency on Tuesday.