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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Germany

Two years after the Covid pandemic started in Germany, responding to a positive test result should be a simple enough thing. But a lot of people are unsure what to do after seeing those two dreaded red lines on their rapid test. Here's what you need to know.

A positive Covid test sits atop an FFP2 mask
A positive Covid test sits atop an FFP2 mask. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

The Covid infection rate in Germany has been soaring to record levels recently, with more than 300,000 positive test results recorded by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on some days. Just a week or so ago, the country broke 1.5 million weekly new infections for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

Since not everyone who gets Covid reports the infection, these numbers are believed to be an understatement. In short: the odds of getting Covid in Germany have never been higher.

So, what should you do if you take a rapid test and find out the result is positive? Is it best to self-isolate straight away, or should you try and seek out other tests just to be sure? 

Here are the latest guidelines and rules to know about.

What to do after testing positive for Covid

If you’ve taken a test at home and got a positive result, your first port of call should be your GP.

Since doctors’ practices are trying to reduce contact to a minimum during the pandemic, many surgeries offer special walk-ins for people who may have Covid, though the easiest thing to do is to simply give them a call and ask for some advice. 

If you don’t have a GP or they aren’t available when you need to talk to them, you can call the Covid hotline on 116 117. You can call this hotline even if you’re not a resident in Germany, for instance if you’re a visitor, and they will be able to advise you on the next steps. 

In any case, you’ll likely be expected to self-isolate or confirm your result with a further supervised test. If you’ve been in close contact with friends and family in recent days, it’s also a good idea to let them know so that they can get tested themselves. 

Also keep in the mind that the taxpayer-funded Schnelltest stations and centres in Germany offering at least one weekly free Covid-19 test per week are also available to visitors. 

How long should I self-isolate for?

People who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 should self-isolate at home for at least seven days. If you no longer have symptoms on the seventh day, you can end your quarantine with a negative rapid test from a certified testing centre.

If you test positive, you can try again on the eighth and ninth day, and on the tenth day, you’re free to start socialising again without needing a further test. 

Obviously, if you’re unlucky enough to still have symptoms, it’s best to stay home to avoid spreading the virus to other people. This isn’t however required by law. 

Do I have to report the infection to the authorities?

Generally, no, though the rules on this do differ slightly from state to state. In Berlin, for instance, you’re required to get a follow-up antigen test at a certified testing centre following a positive result with a home testing kit. If this test is positive, you can then get a PCR. 

In Lower Saxony and Bavaria, there’s no need for a second rapid test and you will be able to arrange a PCR test right away. 

Even if you’re not obliged to register an infection, it can be incredibly useful to do so as it helps the experts get an accurate picture of the number of infections there have been.

This helps politicians and advisors work out how much of the population has a base level of immunity, which in turns helps them decide how many of the Covid measures can be scrapped without risking an overload of the health service. 

READ ALSO: 

When am I entitled to a PCR test?

According to the Ministry of Health, anyone with a positive antigen test result can get a free PCR test at a state testing centre. This includes both home tests and supervised Bürgertests

However, they also say that, with the current high incidences, it’s not always necessary to get one.

A sign advertises PCR tests in Hannover

A sign advertises PCR tests in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

When making a decision, bear in mind that it can be useful to have a positive PCR in order to prove your recovery status at a later date.

Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania and Hamburg are keeping their 2G and 3G rules in place for another three weeks or so – and other states may bring them back – so it can be good to have this proof if you aren’t vaccinated. 

It can also be very useful to have proof of recovery for EU-wide travel in spring and summer. 

Is Germany going to ease its quarantine rules soon?

This is the million-euro question! As you will have noticed, Germany’s been in the process of easing up all sorts of Covid restrictions lately, from masks in shops to travel rules.

At a recent press conference, Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) also hinted that a relaxation of quarantine rules may soon be on the cards.

However, nothing has been confirmed yet, so be sure to follow the current rules for now and we’ll keep you updated.

For a full run-down of quarantine and self-isolation rules, check out the explainer below:

EXPLAINED: Germany’s rules and exceptions for Covid quarantine

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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