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What you need to know about Germany’s quarantine rules for arrivals

Germany has a two week quarantine requirement for anyone who receives a positive coronavirus test results, or is suspected of coming in contact with the virus. Here's what you need to know.

What you need to know about Germany's quarantine rules for arrivals
Martin Dulig (SPD), business minister of Saxony, at a coronavirus testing station at Dresden International Airport on Thursday September 17th. Photo: DPA

What counts as a risk area?

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is continually updating its list of high-risk areas, which now includes several regions within Europe. In general, this applies to areas where there has been an incidence of more than 50 cases per 10,000 people in the population over the last seven days. 

READ ALSO: These are the countries and regions on Germany's 'high risk' coronavirus list

Travellers coming to Germany by train, plane or by sea who have been in a risk area 14 days before their arrival are required to go directly to their home (or suitable accommodation). 

This doesn’t apply, however, to those who have simply travelled through the risk area, without making any stops, as part of their journey.

A two week quarantine period follows, although in some cases this can be shortened when the traveller receives a medical certificate stating a negative test result.

To arrange a test in Germany, you can call the hotline for the medical appointment service at 116 117.

Can non-travellers also be ordered to quarantine?

Yes, if you've come into contact with a person with the coronavirus, or show typical symptoms of the virus (fever, shortness of breath, coughing, etc), you may be ordered to quarantine as a precautionary measure.

READ ALSO: Tell us: What's it like to receive a quarantine order in Germany?

What should you do if entering Germany from a risk area?

When returning from a risk area, you’re also required to let your local health office (Gesundheitsamt) know, and provide the address of where you’re staying. 

Not sure who to contact? Simply plug your zip code (or Postleitzahl, or PLZ) into this tool from the RKI

If requested by the health authority, you’ll need to either prove you have a negative coronavirus test or get tested within 10 days of your arrival. 

Yet even if your test results are negative, you will be legally required to let your local health authority know if you develop symptoms of the virus within the next 14 days.

Can I receive a free test?

Up until September 15th, travellers arriving to Germany from any country – whether classified as a risk area or not – could receive a free test. But since then, free testing has only been available to those who spent time in a risk area up to 14 days before their entry to Germany. 

They will qualify for the test – which is conducted at airports, ports, doctor’s surgeries and sometimes train stations, such as Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof – for up to 10 days after their return. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's plans for mandatory Covid-19 tests for returning travellers

Do children also need to be tested for the virus after returning from a risk area?

Yes, although the age at which testing begins varies based on the state.

Can the quarantine be lifted following a coronavirus test?

Travellers returning to Germany from a risk area qualify for a free coronavirus test. In some of Germany’s 16 states, those who test negative are able to forego the quarantine requirement.

However, you’ll need to check with the state where you’re visiting or staying. For more information, visit the German Foreign Ministry's continually updated website with guidance for incoming travellers

Are there consequences for failing to quarantine?

Let’s first start with the short answer: Yes.

Anyone who has been to a risk area in Germany is required to let their local health authority know. Failing to do so, and follow the quarantine order they consequently receive, is punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 under the German Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz).

More stringent penalties are currently being discussed, including jail time, following an incident in which a local “superspreader” in Bavaria infected several people after disregarding a quarantine order.

READ ALSO: Why is Bavaria so concerned about impact of 'American super spreader'?

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.