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Four German states poised to end mandatory Covid isolation

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Four German states poised to end mandatory Covid isolation
A Covid mask hanging on a window during self-isolation. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

Since the start of the pandemic, people with proven Covid infections have had to self-isolate at home for several days. That's now set to change as a handful of German states lift their mandatory isolation rules.

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In a statement from the Baden-Württemberg health ministry in Stuttgart, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hessen and Schleswig-Holstein announced that they would be ending compulsory isolation for people with Covid. 

The new regulations will come into force "promptly", the ministry said, adding that the details were still being worked out.

According to the statement, other rules and recommendations will be in place for people with a confirmed infection to help prevent the spread of Covid. 

"The states will introduce adapted mandatory protective measures such as a limited masking requirement for persons tested positive, as well as urgent recommendations," it reads. 

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Health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) named November 16th as the date for getting rid of compulsory isolation in Bavaria. The deadline for scrapping mandatory isolation in the other three states is still undecided.

"We are ushering in a new phase in dealing with the pandemic," said Baden-Württemberg's health minister Manne Lucha (Greens). "It is time to give people more personal responsibility again."

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

The Austrian example

The four states are basing their decision partially on the example set by neighbouring countries such as Austria, where measures replacing mandatory isolation have been in place since summer 2022. 

"Declining infection figures, an effective protective vaccination, a basic immunity within the population of more than 90 percent, usually no severe courses of the disease as well as effective antiviral drugs justify taking this step promptly, in the view of the states," the statement explains. 

Joint recommendations agreed by the state lay out a number of basic rules that could be in place instead of the obligation to self-isolation.

This includes wearing a mask indoors, social distancing while outdoors and avoiding visiting medical and nursing facilities.

The four federal states, which have now jointly announced the lifting of the isolation obligation, had asked Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) at the end of September to change the Robert Koch Institute's official isolation recommendations for people infected with Covid-19.

At the time, Lauterbach was quick to reject the proposals, but Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) pointed out that the states could override the RKI's recommendations at any time. 

The RKI recommends that the states mandate at least five days' isolation for infected people. In addition, they suggest a "test to release" system where people require a negative self-test result to end the isolation after this point.

According to the RKI, healthcare workers should also be symptom-free for at least 48 hours before returning to work.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are the current Covid rules in Germany around quarantine?

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