How Germany wants to relax Covid quarantine measures

A proposal by Germany's Health Minister shows plans to shorten the Covid quarantine period, as well as putting the focus on personal responsibility.

A woman looks out the window during isolation following a positive Covid test.
A woman looks out the window during isolation following a positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Read our most up to date story on this topic here: Germany to make Covid quarantine voluntary from May 1st

Most German states have lifted lots of Covid restrictions this week.

And now the strict quarantine measures for people who get coronavirus are also to be significantly relaxed.  

That’s according to a proposal by the Health Ministry and the Robert Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which health ministers across the states were set to discuss on Monday. 

What’s the proposal?

According to the plan put forward by the ministry, which is led by the SPD’s Karl Lauterbach, people who get Covid-19 would be recommended to isolate themselves for five days and carry out a self test or antigen test after this period. The focus in future will be on voluntary isolation in future – rather than an order from authorities. 

Currently, when people get a positive Covid test they have to quarantine for 10 days, with an option to shorten it after a negative test result take on the seventh day. 

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

Under the proposal, however, a five-day isolation obligation would apply to employees of medical and nursing facilities because they work with vulnerable people. They would require a negative PCR test to end their quarantine.

It comes after the health ministers of states called on the federal government last Monday to examine “in a timely manner… whether and for how long isolation of infected persons and contacts is indicated in the current pandemic phase of consequence reduction”.

The reason for the planned drastic change is that the requirements for isolation are not practical in the current wave, Lauterbach said last week.

With staff having to stay off for a long time due to quarantine, some industries are being hit hard as Covid travels through the population. 

On Monday evening it emerged that the new plan has been agreed, and will come into force on Monday May 1st.

‘Personal responsibility’

Speaking before the plan was agreed, a spokesman for the Health Minister said the proposal aims to generally shorten the isolation periods both for infected people and for the quarantine of contact persons to five days, and to get rid of the orders from the health offices that have been customary up to now.

Instead of a quarantine obligation, the authorities should “focus on personal responsibility”, Lauterbach spokesman Hanno Kautz told Welt.

“The recommendation is to reduce contacts as much as possible.”

In addition, people living in a household with people who have Covid should also voluntarily reduce their contacts.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s rules and exceptions for Covid quarantine

What’s the reaction so far?

It’s mixed. The head of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, welcomed the proposal.

“The Omicron wave does bring a lot of infections, but most of them are mild,” he said. Against this background, the proposal for new quarantine rules comes at the right time. “We would otherwise run the risk of crippling important infrastructure in Germany,” he said.

But the German Foundation for Patient Protection called it worrying that staff shortages were fuelling the political discussion.

“For the sick, those in need of care and vulnerable people, such tactics are highly dangerous,” said board member Eugen Brysch. 

Green Party health expert Janosch Dahmen also expressed scepticism.

Greens health spokesperson Janosch Dahmen speaks in the Bundestag

Greens health spokesperson Janosch Dahmen speaks in the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

“In the current pandemic situation, the range of infection courses is extremely high,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

He said there are young vaccinated people whose positive results are asymptomatic, but also “many symptomatic infections that last significantly longer than five days, and there is still a relevant number of severe or chronic courses”.

In the case of an infection, “consistent isolation and recovery continue to be necessary in order to recover quickly and completely and not to infect other people”, said Dahmen.

An end to isolation is “only possible responsibly after the symptoms have completely subsided and a negative test has been carried out”.

The head of the German Hospital Association, Gerald Gaß, said of the proposal: “If it is scientifically comprehensible and harmless to health, a shortening of the quarantine and isolation period is definitely the right thing to do.”

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

With the EU changing its Covid recommendations for flights, there is some confusion around whether people boarding a plane in Germany will still need to wear a mask. Here's what we know so far.

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

As of Monday, the aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC no longer recommend mandatory Covid masks in airports and on planes.

However, if masks are compulsory at the point of departure or destination, this should continue to apply in aircraft as well, they say.

So, what does this mean for passengers boarding flights in Germany? At the moment, not very much at all. 

In Germany, the Infection Protection Act still stipulates that masks have to be worn on long-distance trains and planes. Masks are also compulsory on local public transport.

The previous weeks have seen Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) come out in favour of scrapping compulsory masks – especially on flights.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done to change the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

What are the current rules on flights? 

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, masks are compulsory on all flights taking off or landing in Germany.

FFP2 or medical masks must be worn when boarding and disembarking and throughout the flight, though they can be removed when eating and drinking.

Children under the age of six are exempt from the mask-wearing requirement. 

The ministry has argued that the obligation to wear masks also complies with the new EU recommendations. 

What are the rules acros the EU? 

In general, the relaxed EU recommendation does not mean that masks are no longer compulsory on all flights. However, many countries have kept this measure in place as a simple way to reduce infection. 

Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, published a list of 14 EU countries in which national laws continue to require the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid.

Besides Germany, popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are included on the list. 

In other EU countries, the airline said it would be dropping mandatory masks on flights, adding that it “welcomed” the relaxed recommendations from the EU health authorities.  

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?