Germany should get rid of forced Covid isolation, says MP

FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr says that Germany should follow the example of the UK and end forced isolation for people who get Covid.

FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr at a party event in April.
FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr at a party event in April. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

As The Local has been reporting, German states are in the process of shortening the Covid isolation requirement to a minimum of five days instead of seven. 

But Christian Dürr, of the liberal Free Democrats, said the country should end mandatory isolation, and make it voluntary instead.

Germany should follow the example of the UK, where those who test positive no longer have to go into forced isolation, FDP parliamentary group leader Dürr told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

“We should also lift the isolation rules in Germany in the case of a Covid infection, and rely on voluntary treatment,” he said.

“Those who test positive but are symptom-free should be allowed to leave the house with a mask and distance,” he added. “I am firmly convinced that people can make a decision on this issue on their own responsibility. There is no longer a need for government regulation for this.”

 Up until now, in most German states people who receive a positive Covid test result have to isolate themselves for 10 days, with the chance to end it from the seventh day with a negative Covid test. 

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and German Health Ministry earlier this week presented relaxed guidelines for isolation following a Covid infection.

They stipulate that the isolation period for Covid-infected people can end after only five days. However, a negative test after this time is “strongly recommended”. There are tougher guidelines for health and care staff.

KEY POINTS: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

States can choose to implement this rule in their own way. Many states say that people need to be symptom-free for 48 hours before they can return to their normal lives.

Back in April, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced that Germany would ditch mandatory isolation rules and make them voluntary. But he backtracked on this move, calling it a mistake. 

Germany is emerging through the latest Covid wave, and medical experts say there is less pressure on hospitals.

“We have 1,300 Covid patients in intensive care, the lowest number since September last year,” he head of the board of the German Hospital Association, Gerald Gaß, told RND.

Due to the falling number of infections overall, the situation regarding staff absences is also easing. Nevertheless, things are not back to normal, said Gaß, 

He said that hospitals can now gradually catch up on previously postponed services. For this reason “the burden on hospital staff will therefore remain high over the summer”, he said.

On Wednesday Germany reported 106,631 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period and 241 deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 591.8 infections per 100,000 residents.

On Monday, no Covid deaths were reported – but experts warned that figures were misleading due to delays in health offices submitting details. 

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Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

Germany's highest court ruled on Thursday that the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rule for employees in health and care sectors is constitutional.

Germany's top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health workers

From mid-March this year, health and care workers in Germany have had to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently recovered. 

If they can’t provide this proof they face fines or even bans from working – however it is unclear how widely it has been enforced due to concerns over staff shortages. 

On Thursday the constitutional court rejected complaints against the partial vaccination mandate, saying the protection of vulnerable people outweighs any infringement of employees’ rights.

The law covers employees in hospitals as well as care homes, clinics, emergency services, doctors’ surgeries and facilities for people with disabilities. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid vaccine mandate for health staff

The court acknowledged that the law meant employees who don’t want to be vaccinated would have to deal with professional consequences or change their job – or even profession. 

However, the obligation to be vaccinated against Covid as a health or care worker is constitutionally justified and proportionate, according to the judges.

They said that’s because compulsory vaccination in this case is about protecting elderly and sick people. These groups are at increased risk of becoming infected by Covid-19 and are more likely to become seriously ill or die.

The protection of vulnerable groups is of “paramount importance”, the resolution states.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach welcomed Thursday’s ruling and thanked health care facilities who have already implemented the vaccine mandate. He said: “The state is obliged to protect vulnerable groups”.

Course of the pandemic doesn’t change things

According to the ruling, the development of the pandemic in Germany is no reason to change course. 

The court based its decision on the assessment of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and medical societies, stating that it could still be assumed that a vaccination would protect against the Omicron variant.

It’s true that the protection of vaccines decreases over time, and most courses of disease are milder with the Omicron variant. Nevertheless, the institution-based vaccination obligation remains constitutional because, according to the experts, the higher risk for old and sick people has not fundamentally changed.

A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote held in April

MPs had been allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue rather than having to vote along party lines.