Top virologist signals support for shortening quarantine in Germany

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 4 Jan, 2022 Updated Tue 4 Jan 2022 09:51 CEST
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Virologist Christian Drosten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

High-profile virologist Christian Drosten has spoken out in favour of shortening the duration of quarantine to prevent staff shortages during an Omicron wave.

Speaking to DPA on Tuesday, Drosten said it could "make perfect sense" for someone to be cleared to leave the house after five or seven days, especially in terms of preventing severe staff shortages in critical infrastructure. 

People with full vaccination protection who become infected can fight the virus faster and earlier due to the immune reaction, he explained. 

However, "this can only be done seriously if it is accompanied by a negative test," said the Secretary General of the German Society for Immunology. "To simply shorten it like that because they say, we'd rather let people out after seven days, with or without a test, than have too many people out of action - I would consider that negligent."

As the highly transmissible Omicron variant takes hold in Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has been calling for quarantine durations to be shortened to prevent severe disruptions to public services and infrastructure. 

In recent weeks, the UK, Spain, Portugal, and USA have all decided to reduce the length of time people must self-isolate after contracting Covid, while a number of other countries are said to be considering it. 

READ ALSO: Will Germany shorten Covid quarantine to handle the Omicron variant?

Speaking on Deutschlandfunk recently, Drosten said that with a free test, infected people could certainly be considered non-infectious again after the period of self-isolation - even after just a few days. He assumes that quarantine regulations could also be shortened in the future, even if "a few cases" may be overlooked under the new system. 

The idea that society as a whole no longer wants or needs to be able to "prevent all transmissions" has been going on for a long time, but the discussion has never been fully resolved, Drosten said.

"I always have to put an 'if' in front of this, because it is not yet certain, but if Omicron really has a reduced disease severity on the whole, then I think it makes a lot of sense to go in that direction," he added. 

Experts’ Council to consider new measures

The Berlin-based virologist sits on the newly formed Experts' Council, which was set up to advise the government on Covid strategy and ensure future policies are scientifically and medically sound.

Ahead of talks between the federal and state government on Friday, the Experts' Council is due to meet to put together proposals for new measures to tackle the Omicron wave. 

In addition to shortening quarantine duration, the health experts will also consider whether further contact restrictions are needed. Currently, up to ten vaccinated or recovered people can meet indoors at a time for a private gathering - or just two households if an unvaccinated person is present.

There are also proposals to scrap quarantine requirements for people who have had a booster jab and have been in close contact with someone infected with Covid. 

The Experts' Council recommendations will then be discussed at the roundtable between state and federal governments, with a decision on future measures expected to be made on Friday. 

READ ALSO: German Ethics Council recommends extending vaccine mandates

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