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EXPLAINED: Germany’s relaxed quarantine and testing rules for travel 

Germany has recently relaxed quarantine regulations, making it easier for people to travel. Here’s a look at the new rules in detail. 

EXPLAINED: Germany’s relaxed quarantine and testing rules for travel 
Customers sitting outside in Mallorca on May 13th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Clara Margais

What’s happening?

In view of falling coronavirus infection numbers in Germany and other parts of Europe, the German government has removed a major hurdle to summer holidays abroad by easing the quarantine requirement for ‘risk’ areas.

The new regulation, which came into force on May 13th and was agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet, means people who are fully vaccinated, can prove they have recovered from Covid-19 or can show a recent negative test will no longer have to quarantine after arriving from a coronavirus risk area. 

READ ALSO: Germany eases quarantine rules with eye on summer travel

The rules have also been relaxed even further for immune groups.

What does that mean?

The move will make trips to and from dozens of countries easier for German residents. 

Previously, everyone who arrived in Germany from an area classed as ‘risk’ or ‘high incidence’ by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had to self-isolate for 10 days. People were usually able to end the quarantine after a negative Covid test result taken at the earliest five days into self-isolation. 

Under the new rules, people entering Germany from ‘risk’ countries can be exempt from quarantine by showing a negative coronavirus test. This is a general requirement from all passengers when arriving in Germany by plane, however there are exceptions for immune groups (more on that below).

The government says: “Quarantine at home may be ended prematurely if proof of recovery, proof of vaccination or a negative test result is submitted via the Federal Republic of Germany entry portal”

Germany allows an antigen test no older than 48 hours or a PCR test no older than 72 hours. For more information on test requirements check out this RKI information sheet.

The Local contacted Germany’s Health Ministry who confirmed that one negative Covid-19 test shown before boarding the plane is sufficient proof to free travellers who are not vaccinated from having to quarantine.

For unvaccinated people, the 10-day quarantine and option to end it after five days still applies when coming from countries or regions listed as ‘high incidence areas’.

What about virus variant areas of concern?

Some countries outside Europe, including India, Brazil and South Africa, are currently classed as ‘virus variant areas of concern’.

As of May 23rd, the UK was also classed as a virus variant area of concern due to the prevalence of the Delta variant, first discovered in India.

There is a general entry ban on anyone coming from these countries but there are some exceptions such as for German residents and citizens.

Anyone coming from these countries – regardless if vaccinated/recovered from Covid or not – has to show a negative Covid-19 test before boarding and then quarantine at home for 14 days. There is no option to shorten the quarantine.

Restrictions relaxed further for immune groups

For the fully vaccinated, or those who can produce a positive PCR test that is at least 28 days old and no older than six months to show they have recovered from Covid-19, the relaxations go even further. These groups only have to quarantine if they come from an area classed as a ‘virus variant area of concern’. If coming from other countries, they do not face a quarantine.

Vaccinated and recovered people who arrive in Germany from the approximately 190 other countries in the world also no longer have to be tested for coronavirus before boarding their flight or after entering the country (except if coming from a virus variant region).

As part of the new rules the government says: “Proof of vaccination or of recovery from Covid-19 can replace a negative test certificate and exempt you from quarantine on entry.”

The decree is the largest far-reaching relaxation of travel regulations since restrictions were brought in at the start of the pandemic last year.

Are vaccination certificates from other countries recognised in Germany?

Talks are ongoing on recognising foreign vaccine certificates.

If you were vaccinated in Germany you can show proof of your vaccination passport or the document they gave you when you got your shots.

The EU is finalising details of its ‘digital green pass’, which is expected to come into force in June. So if you were vaccinated in another EU country, you will likely to be able to show proof through that soon.

But there may be some added complications if you were vaccinated in a non-EU country such as the UK, USA, Australia or Canada as the EU and the non-EU country needs to recognise each other’s vaccine certificate.

The EU has already said it has opened talks with the USA. Recently, EU ambassadors for the 27 member states reached an agreement to allow vaccinated holidaymakers from outside the EU, including the UK, to visit the bloc.

The EU currently has a small “safe list” of countries from where travellers are allowed in for non-essential reasons due to its infection rates. The list includes Australia, New Zealand and Israel. 

People who have German residence or citizenship, however, are allowed to enter Germany.

The German Health Ministry told The Local that the internationally recognised ‘yellow booklet’ for vaccinations is recognised in Germany.

READ ALSO: How do you prove you’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in Germany?

What else should we know?

Germany splits countries or regions up according to risk. These are as follows:

Virus variant areas of concern: Anyone entering Germany from these countries, including India, Brazil and South Africa, must self-isolate for 14 days. There is still no exception here: even vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from Covid-19 must quarantine at home. Everyone coming from these countries must also show a negative Covid test before boarding their flight.

High-incidence areas: This category applies to countries with more than 200 new infections per 100,000 residents in seven days (7-day incidence). It currently includes some popular holiday destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia, Mexico and the Maldives. Here, a quarantine obligation of 10 days still applies, from which you can be released from after five days with a negative Covid test result.

Fully vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from Covid-19 are exempt from the quarantine and testing obligations as they can show proof of their status.

Basic risk areas: These are countries where the 7-day incidence is above 50. Anyone coming from one of these countries doesn’t have to quarantine if they can present a negative Covid-19 test result (or proof of vaccination/recovery). These currently include much of Spain, most of Switzerland, the USA and Turkey. 

– ‘Risk free’ areas: There are only a few countries that are not classified in any of the three coronavirus risk categories, but their number is increasing. In Europe, Malta, Albania and Iceland are classed as ‘risk free’. Italy and Czech Republic were also added recently. For these countries and regions, too, the obligation to test before boarding the flight to Germany for unvaccinated air travellers still applies, but otherwise there are no longer any restrictions.

As we touched on above, if you have stayed in a basic risk, high incidence or virus variant area within 10 days prior to coming to Germany, you have to register online at the website

For further details on the rules check out the German government website (rules also in English).There’s also a helpful question and answer sheet (in German).

The RKI regularly updates a list showing which countries are risk areas, high incidence areas and virus variant areas of concern so keep an eye on this if you are planning to travel. Please also keep in mind that countries you want to travel to may still have entry restrictions in place.

READ ALSO: How did Germany turbocharge its vaccination rollout – and what can it do better?

The quarantine obligation is initially in place until June 30th.

So can people travel?

Travel isn’t banned in Germany but the government is still strongly urging people against all non-essential travel abroad – despite bringing in the new entry rules on May 13th.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has not confirmed when the travel warning will be lifted. However, during his recent visit to Italy – the second most popular holiday destination for Germans – he said he was “very, very confident” that German tourists will be able to go on holiday in Italy and other European countries this summer.

What’s the reaction?

The German Travel Association said the new entry regulations were positive for the travel industry as well as holidaymakers. 

“Nothing more stands in the way of the summer holiday on the Mediterranean that so many people are longing for,” said association president Norbert Fiebig. 

Summer holidays begin in Germany on June 19th in some federal states.

Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.

***We updated this story on May 19th to include information about recognition of vaccine certificates.

Member comments

  1. Wanting to travel to Germany in the fall. Not all the USA is a risk area. We live in a low risk area. We want to go to Germany

    1. The RKI system classifies entire USA equally. They do not break it down further into regions, states, etc.

      There may be differences between Canada, USA, and Mexico but nothing beyond that.

      The classifications are changed every 2 weeks. Predicting how things will be that far out is uncertain but at this point it does appear most of America and Europe will be close to “normal” by then. Assuming no vaccine resistant variants spread, etc. I suggest booking the trip with cancellation insurance just in case. Note Oktoberfest 2021 is already cancelled as well as anything else in involving “large crowds”.

  2. I take this to mean that Americans that are vaccinated can visit now. Is that correct? Also, is there any talk about when things will open back up in Berlin and Germany in general? I live in Berlin and have friends from America who are supposed to have visited since last June. We still have plane tickets and a hotel to Amsterdam.

    1. Berlin and Amsterdam (Germany and Netherlands) are under separate rules. I would call the hotel directly and ask current policy toward Germans and/or Americans.

      As for Berlin itself that depends on how many positive tests come up each week and that is unknown until it happens.

      All you can do is keep checking this site for more news every week or so…

    2. Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. there is still a general ban on tourist travel from outside EU (some exceptions). The European Commission is discussing this at the moment so we’ll keep you updated. The EU has stated previously it wants to welcome vaccinated people from the US in the summer.

    3. Thank you both for the information. It’s hard sorting all this out as it seems to change daily. I’ll keep watching and looking for information.

      As a side note, I really like this site and am glad that I did the paid membership!

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.