On Thursday evening, MPs will gather to vote on a new set of quarantine rules for people infected with Covid and their contacts.
The new proposals, which were thrashed out at a meeting between the federal and state leaders on January 7th, will likely be ratified by the upper house of parliament (the Bundesrat) on Friday and are likely to enter into law on Saturday.
However, the new rules won’t be immediately effective. They will only apply after Germany’s 16 states pass their own legislation in the state parliaments.
Ahead of the vote, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) will face questions on aspects of the traffic light coalition’s Covid health policy – including the government’s vaccine targets and the introducing of a blanket ‘2G plus’ rule for bars, restaurants and cafes.
A draft of the quarantine legislation that will be presented ahead of the debate is expected to offer concrete details on the new rules and exceptions for people who’ve had contact with a Covid-infected person.
The aim of the new legislation is to prevent major disruptions to key services such as hospitals, emergency services and schools in the event of a massive wave of Omicron infections.
With the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that half of all Europeans will be infected with the new variant over the coming months, ministers are concerned that critical infrastructure could take a hit as huge swathes of staff end up in quarantine.
At their meeting on January 7th, the federal and state leaders agreed on plans to introduce a standard 10-day quarantine for infected people and their contacts. This can be shortened to seven days with a negative antigen or PCR test.
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Meanwhile, people who’ve had contact with an infected person and have had a booster jab will be exempt from having to quarantine. The same applies to people who have recovered from Covid or had their final dose of vaccine less than three months ago.
The plans mark a significant deviation from the previous patchwork of quarantine rules in Germany.
Previously, different variants were treated differently, and anyone infected with Omicron – or who had had contact with someone infected with Omicron – was subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The same rules applied regardless of vaccination or recovery status, and there was no option to shorten the length of quarantine.