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Germany to toughen restaurant rules, cut COVID quarantine

BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s leaders agreed on Friday to toughen requirements for entry to restaurants and bars, and decided to shorten quarantine and self-isolation periods as the Omicron variant spreads fast through the country.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the 16 state governors built on restrictions introduced just after Christmas that limited private gatherings to 10 people and effectively shut nightclubs.

People have already been required for some time to show proof of full vaccination or recovery to enter establishments — as well as many non-essential shops, theatres and cinemas.

Friday’s decision calls for the requirements to be ratcheted up for restaurants.

Customers will have to show either that they have received a booster shot or provide a negative test result on top of proof that they have been vaccinated or recovered.

People with mandatory face masks line up in Cologne, Germany. PHOTO: AP

“Half the population will be boosted… in a few days” and will be able to go to restaurants without a test, Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey told reporters. “This is an extra incentive to get boosters.”

Still, the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt said it wouldn’t introduce the new rule for now because its cases mostly still involve the Delta variant, and Bavaria said it was sceptical.

Scholz and the governors also agreed to shorten quarantine or self-isolation periods that are currently as long as 14 days, something that many other countries already have done.

People who have received boosters will no longer have to go into quarantine after having contact with coronavirus cases, and neither will people who have been fully vaccinated or recovered in the past three months.

All others can end their quarantine or self-isolation period after 10 days if they don’t have – or no longer have – symptoms; that can be cut to seven days with a negative test.

“These are strict rules, but they are pragmatic and mean an easing of the current rules,” Scholz said.

Friday’s decision by federal and state governments stated that the use of protective FFP2 masks in shops and on public transport is “urgently recommended”.

The COVID-19 situation in Germany has been foggy for the past two weeks because of very patchy testing and slow reporting over the holiday period.

Official figures, which authorities have acknowledged don’t yet show the full picture, have shown a steady increase in the infection rate over the past week.