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Vials of COVID-19 vaccine in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Nov. 30, 2021. New regulations in Rheinland-Pfalz, which includes Kaiserslautern and several U.S. military bases, allow those with recent full vaccinations the same access to nonessential services as those who have had booster shots.
Vials of COVID-19 vaccine in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Nov. 30, 2021. New regulations in Rheinland-Pfalz, which includes Kaiserslautern and several U.S. military bases, allow those with recent full vaccinations the same access to nonessential services as those who have had booster shots. (Alexander W. Riedel/Stars and Stripes)

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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Rheinland-Pfalz has again tweaked its statewide coronavirus policies, adopting a new set of rules that effectively equates recent vaccination with a booster shot.

With the changes, which took effect Friday, people who became fully vaccinated against COVID-19 within the past three months are freed from some of the restrictions of the so-called “2G-plus” policy, according to a government statement Tuesday.

The loosened rules will allow the recently vaccinated to attend social events and visit restaurants, gyms and pools again without the need to also present a recent rapid antigen or PCR test result. People who have received booster shots still do not require a test to go to those venues.

In addition, those fully vaccinated who have recovered from a breakthrough infection also are considered exempt from the testing requirement.

In December, the state implemented the 2G-plus rules. To enter restaurants, bars and nonessential retail stores, vaccinated residents had to show proof of a booster if they were eligible for one. Otherwise, they had to show proof of a negative antigen test taken within 24 hours or a PCR test no older than 48 hours.

The new rules also shorten the mandatory quarantine period for those who tested positive. After a minimum quarantine of seven days, a new negative PCR or antigen test is now sufficient to end their isolation.

Those newly vaccinated within the past 90 days, or those either with boosters or proof of recent recovery, also will be exempt from quarantining when identified as close contacts of someone with a recent COVID-19 infection.

Unvaccinated people who are identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive can now be released from quarantine within seven days after a negative test, while minors can already return to school with a negative test after five days.

More than 80% of the 14,874 current COVID-19 infections in Rheinland-Pfalz can be traced back to the omicron variant, according to state government data.

The relaxation of quarantine requirements aims to maintain sufficient emergency capacity for regional emergency rooms and services, state officials said.

“We are facing a very sharp increase in the number of infections and a high level of stress on our health system,” Rheinland-Pfalz governor Malu Dreyer said Tuesday.

Contact limitations remain in place, officials said. Public gatherings are limited to no more than 10 vaccinated or recovered attendees, and the unvaccinated are prohibited from gathering with more than two people at a time outside their household.

Retailers will remain limited to those vaccinated and recovered, with exceptions for grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.

Rheinland-Pfalz is home to the largest U.S. military community in Europe, with tens of thousands of U.S. personnel and family members spread among numerous Air Force and Army installations throughout the state.

Senior military leaders will decide corresponding guidance for installations in the state, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz said Friday. The guidance may match or exceed German rules, it said.

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Alexander reports on the U.S. military and local news in Europe for Stars and Stripes in Kaiserslautern, Germany. He has 10 years experience as an Air Force photojournalist covering operations in Timor-Leste, Guam and the Middle East. He graduated from Penn State University and is a Defense Information School alumnus.
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