Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

Some politicians in Germany are pushing to get rid of mandatory isolation for those who get Covid-19.

An employee at a German pharmacy with a negative Covid test.
An employee at a German pharmacy with a negative Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Politicians from the pro-business Free Democrats, who are in the coalition government with the Social Democrats and the Greens, say they want a debate on ending the Covid isolation requirement in Germany. 

“From my point of view, it is overdue, both epidemiologically and for reasons of personal responsibility, to leave this decision to the people again – as other European countries have done for a long time,” FDP vice president Wolfgang Kubicki said. 

FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai expressed similar views, and warned of staffing problems due to isolation obligations.

“We will face enormous challenges in system-relevant areas if we send masses of people who have tested positive without symptoms into isolation,” he told the Rheinische Post on Monday.

The rules on isolation differ from state to state, but the general requirement is that those who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

READ ALSO: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

Over the weekend, Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, spoke out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

These should be “lifted until further notice – this would alleviate the staff shortage in many places”, Gassen told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. Those who are sick should stay at home, while those who feel healthy go to work, he said.

READ ALSO: The Covid rules in place across German states

However, not everyone is on board.

The Greens’ health politician Saskia Weishaupt said the firm rules should stay in place.

When people go to work, they should not be exposed to the risk of contracting the disease, she told the Funke Mediengruppe.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) made it clear over the weekend that he did not back the proposal. 

“Infected people must stay at home. Otherwise, not only will the number of (Covid) cases increase even more, but the workplace itself will become a safety risk,” he wrote on Twitter.

Germany has seen a spike in the number of Covid infections recently, fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron BA.5 subtype.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse, say experts

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Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”