Germany’s new quarantine rules to be signed into law ‘by Saturday’

The German parliament is due to vote on a new set of quarantine rules designed to tackle the Omicron variant on Thursday, with the legislation set to enter into law on Saturday.

Covid street sign
A street sign in Frankfurt am Main tells passers by to keep their distance, stay home and stay safe. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

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.

READ ALSO: German government changes Covid quarantine rules

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. 

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. 

READ ALSO: What to do if you get a red alert on Germany’s Covid warning app

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now