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COVID-19 RULES

Why Germany is getting rid of compulsory Covid quarantine

Germany will make the quarantine period for Covid-19 voluntary from next month, instead of mandatory. Here's what you need to know.

People stand in a queue for a PCR test in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein.
People stand in a queue for a PCR test in Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christian Charisius

What’s happening?

Since the start of the pandemic, anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 has been ordered to a complete a quarantine where they are not allowed to leave their house or see anyone else. 

At the moment that quarantine period is 10 days, with an option to shorten it following a negative Covid test taken on the seventh day. 

But now the German government is going in a completely different direction with plans to make the quarantine voluntary rather than obligatory from May 1st.

The changes were agreed by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and state health ministers on Monday. 

READ ALSO: Germany to make Covid quarantine compulsory from May 1st

What does this mean for people in Germany?

According to the agreement, people who contract Covid will in future only be “strongly advised” to isolate themselves for five days and to avoid contact. The same will apply to contacts of Covid patients.

So you will no longer receive an order from the public health department saying you must quarantine. 

Stricter regulations, however, are to remain for health and care workers who have get infected.

Why is this changing?

Lauterbach said that the existing regulation had worked, but was not needed in the long term.

In a tweet, he said that it is already difficult for German health authorities to control isolation and quarantine periods.

“The work is almost only bureaucratic documentation (and) has hardly any influence on case numbers,” he said. “Therefore, personal responsibility is enough here. What helps are masks and vaccinations.”

As we mentioned above, an isolation period usually lasts 10 days and can be ended earlier with a negative test after seven days.

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

The background to the relaxation is the current Omicron wave which is presenting many infections – but they are mostly mild rather than causing serious illness like previous Covid variants. 

The change in quarantine rules is also intended to prevent mass staff absences in the event of high infection rates. The changes are based on a proposal by the Health Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) said the move is another step towards personal responsibility in the pandemic, rather than state orders. “I appeal to people to be aware of this responsibility,” he added.

He said it was also clear that important questions still had to be clarified – for example, regarding loss of earnings or sick leave. The federal government has to quickly come up with a sensible proposal, he urged.

The chair of the so-called Conference of Health Ministers, Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne (SPD), said: “We consider the planned change in strategy of quarantine and isolation regulations towards more personal responsibility to be justifiable.”

In the current phase of the pandemic, it is “more important than before for each individual to take responsibility for protecting themselves and others from infection”, she added.

Do we have more any more details?

People who get a positive Covid-19 test will receive a strong recommendation asking them to isolate themselves for five days and then – starting after five days – take rapid tests until they are negative. For people in contact with infected Covid patients, the “urgent recommendation” is to reduce contacts independently – especially with people who belong to risk groups. They should also do daily self-tests or antigen tests.

But health authorities should continue to order and monitor quarantines for employees in the health sector, in old people’s and nursing homes as well as in outpatient care services.

According to the plan, a prerequisite for returning to work will be a clear improvement in the symptoms of the disease, and a negative result from a rapid or PCR test taken no earlier than on day five after the infection has been detected. If such employees are in contact with people who have Covid, they should be tested daily up to and including day five before starting work again.

Is there any pushback?

Yes. Patient protection campaigners have slammed the move.

Eugen Brysch, chairman of the German Foundation for Patient Protection said risk groups will be affected.

“The message from the health ministers could hardly be more ambivalent,” he said. “On the one hand, the warning about the virus – on the other hand, downplaying the infection, which is more contagious than ever,” he said.

For high-risk groups “it is becoming more and more dangerous”, he added.

Meanwhile, epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb called for the quarantine order to remain in place.

“If a person has symptoms, they should wait out the Covid infection at home instead of infecting more people,” Zeeb told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status

From October, there will be changes to who is considered fully vaccinated in Germany. Here's what we know so far.

EXPLAINED: Germany's planned changes to Covid vaccination status

People in Germany have to pay close attention to their current vaccination status because of an important change coming up. 

From October 1st 2022, those who have not received their Covid booster vaccination will be considered unvaccinated. 

A spokesman from the German Health Ministry told The Local: “People who have a double vaccination will generally no longer be considered fully vaccinated from October 1st 2022, according to the innovations in infection protection.

“Accordingly, the EU Covid digital vaccination certificate will be shown as invalid for domestic use when checked with the CovPassCheck app.”

However, there are slightly different rules for entry into Germany. 

The Health Ministry spokesman said: “In the context of entry, according to European law, an EU digital Covid vaccination certificate will continue to be valid after October 1st 2022 for a double vaccination if no more than 270 days have passed since the last vaccination dose, or indefinitely for persons under 18.”

READ ALSO: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

Note that in Germany, the recovered status is believed to offer a similar level of immunity to a vaccination. So people who have recovered from a Covid infection will only need two jabs to be considered “fully immunised” from October.

What are the different combinations?

Here’s a look at what applies now, and what the rules will be from October. 

Since March 19th 2022, the Infection Protection Act has specified the conditions that have to be met to be considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in Germany.

Up until September 30th 2022, these scenarios count as complete vaccination protection:

– Three vaccination shots (basic immunisation plus booster)

– Two single vaccinations (two weeks must have passed after the last dose)

– One vaccination PLUS

a positive antibody test before the first vaccination OR

a PCR-proven SARS-CoV-2 infection before first vaccination OR

a SARS-CoV-2 infection detected by PCR test after first vaccination; 28 days must have passed since testing.

After October 1st 2022 you are fully vaccinated in Germany in these scenarios:

– After three vaccination shots (the last jab must have taken place at least three months after the second single vaccination),

– Two single vaccinations PLUS

a positive antibody test before the first vaccination OR

a PCR-proven SARS-CoV-2 infection before the second vaccination OR

a PCR-tested SARS-CoV-2 infection after the second vaccination (28 days must have elapsed since testing).

Vaccinations must have been administered with vaccines licensed by the European Union or vaccines approved abroad that have the same formula as one of the EU-approved vaccines. 

Germany’s Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends that everyone over the age of 12 who has had two jabs should get a booster vaccination. Children aged 5 to 11 with pre-existing diseases should also receive a booster vaccination after basic immunisation, according to STIKO.

It is recommended in Germany that some people receive a fourth jab – or a second booster shot. However, currently this is only a recommendation for risk groups, such as the elderly. 

Why is this important to know?

At the moment there are very few Covid restrictions in place in Germany. However, it could be the case that tougher rules are brought in after summer if the infection situation worsens. 

That could mean that people would once more have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test (the so-called 3G rule) to enter public facilities, such as restaurants, bars or museums. 

If the situation gets worse, the government could also bring in the 2G rule, which means unvaccinated people are not allowed to enter.

READ ALSO: Germany lays out autumn Covid plan

Up until now 76.2 percent of the German population has had two shots, and 61.6 percent have been boosted. 

Up-to-date information on Covid-19 vaccines and the regulations around it is available on the Germany Health Ministry site (in German). Talk to your GP if you have any questions about Covid vaccines in Germany. 

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