All over Germany, buses and trains can again be used without a mask. After almost three years of Corona, it is no longer compulsory to wear long-distance transport from today. At the same time, the regulation will be repealed in the other nine federal states in which it previously applied to regional transport. Most recently, the transport companies had also spoken out in favor of ending the obligation in local public transport.
"From the point of view of the industry, given the pandemic situation, an obligation has not been necessary for a long time," said a spokesman for the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV) at the request of the German Press Agency. "And it was also becoming increasingly difficult to enforce this with the passengers and to explain to them why you didn't have to wear a mask on a fully occupied plane or in the sold-out concert hall, but you did on the bus and train on the way to the airport or to the concert."
Even Deutsche Bahn, otherwise rather reluctant to make public demands to the federal government, had already spoken out in favor of an early end of masks on long-distance trains a few weeks ago. "In this way we avoid a patchwork quilt with different rules within Germany and between the various modes of transport," long-distance transport board member Michael Peterson wrote on the LinkedIn job platform in mid-January.
Finally, the federal cabinet decided to phase out the mask requirement in long-distance transport on February 2nd. Originally, the obligation to wear ICEs, ICs, ECs and long-distance buses such as Flixbus should remain in place until the beginning of April. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) advises continuing to wear masks voluntarily.
Regional transport, on the other hand, is a matter for the federal states. Most recently, there were nine federal states in which masks were still compulsory on buses and trains. Since Thursday, they too have opted for voluntary work. In North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, the mask requirement fell on Wednesday.
The mask requirement was gradually introduced in public transport in the course of the corona pandemic in spring 2020. At first, towels or scarves were enough, also because masks were scarce. At the beginning of 2021, Bavaria was the first federal state to introduce an FFP2 mask requirement, which finally prevailed.
Not all passengers should be comfortable with the end of the mask requirement on trains. Shortly after Lauterbach announced the end of the measure, some users on the short message platform Twitter called for separate areas to be set up on Deutsche Bahn long-distance trains for those who still do not want to sit next to passengers without a mask.
But there will be no such designated areas on the long-distance trains, a railway spokesman said on request. The regulations of the federal states also do not provide for their own areas with a mask requirement in buses and trains. "Passengers with a special need for protection can continue to wear a mask for their own protection," said the railway spokesman.
In the health and care sector, some corona rules still apply: nationwide, visitors to hospitals, care facilities, medical and dental practices must continue to wear an FFP2 mask until April 7th, and a negative test is also required for access to clinics and care homes.