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COVID-19 LATEST

What should I do if I get Covid in Germany?

The rules around Covid infections in Germany have changed a lot over the last year, and many people are wondering what they should do if they catch Covid now. We've put together a guide to the latest rules.

A woman holds a positive antigen test for Covid-19.
A woman holds a positive antigen test for Covid-19. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

Can I get a free Covid “Bürgertest” if I have symptoms?

There are strict and limited categories for who is exempt from paying for an official antigen test (a so-called Bürgertest) in Germany now, and having symptoms is not one of them.

Those who can get an antigen test for free include children under the age of five, people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, pregnant women in their first trimester, as well as visitors and workers at various healthcare facilities. All of these exemptions require some sort of proof.

You can, however, get a free test if you can prove that a member of your household has Covid. For this, you would need proof of a positive test and proof of a matching residential address.

You can also get a free test to end your mandatory isolation. For this, you also need proof of having had a Covid infection.

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

The federal Health Ministry’s website advises symptomatic patients to stay at home and call their doctor to find out what they should do next. If your doctor decides that you need a test, the cost of testing carried out by them will be paid for by your health insurer. 

Can I get a Covid test for €3 if I have symptoms?

Having symptoms alone isn’t enough to qualify for a €3 test.

For this, you will need to have a red warning on the Corona warning app, proof that you intend to go to an indoor event on the day of testing, or proof that you will have contact with someone with a high risk of contracting a severe case of Covid-19 (someone over 60 years of age, people with disabilities, people with pre-existing conditions) on the day of the test.

A test centre worker sticks a sign on a glass wall saying that Coronatests cost 3 euros. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Dunker

If you don’t qualify for either a free or €3 test, you will have to pay whatever your local test centre is charging. You can also test yourself at home using an antigen self-test.

If you have Covid symptoms, you can also contact your doctor who may arrange for you to do a PCR test (or advise another test). 

Do I have to do a PCR test?

No. Previously, people who tested positive for Covid were obliged to do a PCR test, but this is no longer a requirement.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where Covid infections are rising rapidly in Germany

If you want to get a PCR test, however, you’ll need proof of a positive Covid antigen test to get one for free. A spokesperson for the Federal Ministry for Health told The Local that a positive self-test is enough to entitle you to a free PCR test – but not an official antigen test (a so-called Bürgertest). 

Unlike earlier in the year, a red warning on the Corona warn app won’t suffice for a free PCR test.

I’ve tested positive for Covid – what now?

If you’ve tested positive for Covid with an antigen or PCR test, you have to isolate for at least five days. This rule applies even if you’re fully vaccinated and don’t have any symptoms.

A woman sits on her bed during isolation after a positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The general rule across German states is that you have to isolate for 10 days, but you can end this if you’ve been symptom-free for 48 hours and have a negative test from day five. Some states allow people to end the quarantine from the fifth day onwards if they no longer have symptoms. Check your local authority for the rules around this in your area. 

During home isolation, you’re not allowed to have visits from anyone from another household.

Do I need to tell someone that I have Covid?

Unlike earlier in the year, you are no longer obliged to tell your local health authority that you have Covid.

How can I get a sick note?

In Germany, you need to provide your employer with a sick note (eine Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) after three consecutive days of illness.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

If you have Covid, you’ll be able to get this over the phone from your doctor until at least November 30th, 2022.

What do I do once the five days are up?

If the test is negative on day five, you can end your isolation. If not, you have to keep self-isolating until you get a negative test result.

Workers in healthcare, elderly care and nursing facilities, outpatient care services, and institutions for integration assistance, must be symptom-free for at least 48 hours and have a negative antigen or PCR test taken no earlier than day five following the first positive test to return to work. 

How can I get a proof of recovery certificate?

If you need an official certificate to prove that you have recovered from a Covid infection, you must have a PCR test. The certificate will be valid 28 days following the PCR test result.  Antigen testing is not sufficient for getting a proof of recovery certificate.

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COVID-19 RULES

Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder (CSU) has announced plans for a "prompt" end to mandatory masks on buses and trains.

Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

If infection levels and hospitalisations remain low, the end of the mask-wearing rule could come as soon as December or January.

“We are convinced that the mask requirement in public transport could also be phased out either in mid-December or early next year, if the numbers remain reasonably stable and there are no new mutations,” Söder explained on Monday, following a meeting with the CSU executive committee. 

A decision on when to end the measure would be made “promptly”, he added.

The CSU politician had said last week that the sinking infection rates meant that compulsory masks were no longer appropriate and that the mandate could be changed to a recommendation. 

No set date for change

The latest version of Bavaria’s Infection Protection Act – which lays out an obligation to wear masks on public transport as one of the few remaining Covid rules – is currently due to expire on December 9th.

State ministers could decide whether to let obligatory masks on buses and trains lapse on this date as early as next week, or they could decide to initially extend the legislation and set an alternative date for ending the rule.

Regardless of their decision, FFP2 masks will continue to be mandatory on long-distance public transport until at least April next year, when the nationwide Infection Protection Act is due to expire.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

Speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Florian Herrmann (CSU), head of the State Chancellery, confirmed that Covid-19 had been discussed in passing.

However, no decisions or discussions were made on how to proceed after the expiry of the regulation, he said.

According to Herrmann, the fact that Covid was no longer the “dominant topic” in the cabinet under “enormous tension” shows “that we are returning to normality” in a gradual transition from pandemic to endemic. 

As of Wednesday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people stood at 108 in Bavaria, down from 111 the previous day. However, experts have cast doubt on how meaningful the incidence is in light of the fact that fewer people are taking tests.

Nevertheless, the 133 hospital beds occupied by Covid patients in the Free State falls well below the 600 threshold for a ‘red alert’. With Omicron causing less severe courses of illness than previous variants, politicians have increasingly focussed on hospitalisation statistics to gauge the severity of the situation.

‘A risk-benefit trade-off’

Bavaria is the second federal state to announce plans to relax its mask-wearing rules in recent weeks.

On November 14th, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein announced that it would be ending obligatory FFP2 masks on public transport and urged other states to do the same. From January 2023, masks on public transport will only be recommended rather than mandated for passengers on local buses and trains. 

However, the Federal Ministry of Health has urged states not to loosen their rules too quickly.

Given that infection rates are likely to spike again in winter, “there’s no basis for loosening restrictions”, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD).

Physicians are also split on whether an end to masks on public transport is appropriate.

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

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at the German Hospital Day in Düsseldorf on November 14th. Lauterbach is against the lifting of the mask-wearing rule. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roberto Pfeil

Christoph Spinner, a virologist at the University Hospital in Munich, told Süddeutsche Zeitung he believed it was time to put the decision on mask-wearing back into the hands of individuals.

“Why not? The incidences are low, the danger of Covid-19 has dropped significantly and mortality has also decreased,” he said. 

But the Bavarian General Practitioners’ Association spoke out against the move, arguing that – unlike a trip to a restaurant or cinema – people often have no choice but to travel on public transport.

“If the obligation to wear a mask in public transport is maintained, this will help to protect against a Covid infection on the way to work by bus or train – especially in view of the discontinuation of the obligation to isolate in the event of a Covid infection,” they explained.

Bavaria is one of four states to have recently ended mandatory isolation for people who test positive for Covid. Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein both scrapped their isolation mandate last week, while Hesse removed its obligation on Tuesday. 

READ ALSO: Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

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