Unvaccinated workers in Germany could lose pay if ordered into quarantine

People in Germany who can't work because they've been ordered into quarantine are entitled to receive pay. But some states plan to remove this right for unvaccinated people - a proposal backed by the German Health Minister.

Unvaccinated workers in Germany could lose pay if ordered into quarantine
A sign urging people to get vaccinated in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

If an employee is ordered into quarantine and cannot work, they are still generally entitled to receive wage compensation under the Protection against Infection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz) regardless of whether being vaccinated or not. 

But some German states are now opting to remove this right for unvaccinated people. And German Health Minister Jens Spahn says he can understand this move. 

It comes as pressure mounts on people eligible for vaccination who choose not to get their jabs. Germany’s Covid health pass – known as the 3G rule – which allows entry to lots of indoor spaces only for people who are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) or tested (getestet) against Covid, is in place – and unvaccinated people will have to pay for tests from October 11th.


Meanwhile, some regions – including Hamburg – are allowing businesses to move to 2G rules – allowing access only for vaccinated and recovered people. 

So far two German states have announced they will stop paying wage compensation for the unvaccinated who have to quarantine in future, German media including Bild reports.

In Baden-Württemberg, this rule change is coming into place from September 15th, while Rhineland-Palatinate is aiming for October 1st.

According to Bild, unvaccinated people in Hesse will also no longer be entitled to compensation in future, though no firm date has been given.

Berlin, however, will continue to allow compensation for all regardless of vaccination status.

Bavaria will continue to decide on compensation in each individual case. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein are pushing for a uniform regulation throughout Germany.

Other governments have not yet decided on any changes to the regulation.

Should unvaccinated people have wages deducted during quarantine?

Health Minister Spahn said Wednesday that states are free to decide their own rules on this rule, but said he understood why some are moving to freeze quarantine pay for those who choose not get their shots. 

The current regulation provides that the claim for pay may be waived if the quarantine could have been avoided through vaccination.

Spahn said: “In the end, it’s the taxpayers who finance the wage replacement payment – for someone who could have been vaccinated.

“I don’t see why in the long run others should pay if someone doesn’t opt for free vaccination when they could.”

But SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach slammed Spahn’s comment and the decision of some states.

“I think wage deductions because of quarantine are wrong,” he said on Twitter. “Not all unvaccinated people are Querdenker (a movement against Covid restrictions and vaccinations). We simply have not yet reached many with our campaign.” He went on to say that sick people should not be punished for not getting vaccinated. 

According to Bild, wage replacement payments have cost the states about €458 million in the past year and a half, with North Rhine-Westphalia (€120 million) and Bavaria (€83 million) accounting for much of the total.

Vaccinations are ‘most powerful tool’ in pandemic

Spahn on Wednesday called for people in Germany who have so far held off getting vaccinated to go for their shots. 

Germany is to launch a ‘vaccination week’ from Monday where local authorities will push to offer easy opportunities for people to get their jabs. 

During a press conference Spahn said: “We have the means in our hands to vaccinate our way back to freedom and normality.”

He added that vaccination is the personal decision of each individual, “but it is also a question that affects others”.

“The pandemic is not over yet,” stressed the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler on Wednesday.

If the vaccination rate is not increased, “the current fourth wave can take a drastic course”, he said. The occupancy of intensive care beds in hospitals has almost doubled in the past two weeks, he said, while more younger people are being affected.

“Vaccinations are the most powerful tool we have in the fight against the pandemic,” Wieler stressed. The RKI estimates that vaccinations prevented 77,000 hospitalisations and 20,000 cases in intensive care units between January and July this year. In addition, 38,000 deaths have been prevented, he said.

“That’s a really great success of the vaccinations.”

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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.