German doctors call for police to enforce quarantine of travel returnees

The head of the German Medical Association says police and public order authorities should monitor quarantine orders of people returning from abroad to relieve health officials.

German doctors call for police to enforce quarantine of travel returnees
Police in Munich in March during the coronavirus lockdown. Photo: DPA

Klaus Reinhardt said medical officials were already stretched in their work trying to control the spread of coronavirus in Germany.

“Medical officers are working to full capacity to trace chains of infection and initiate quarantine measures,” Reinhardt told DPA.

“The monitoring and sanctioning of these measures must be taken over by others, for example the police and public order offices.”

Angela Merkel urged authorities on Thursday August 27th to step up controls to ensure people adhere to quarantine rules as part of the government's new strategy on how it deals with travel.

Germany had earlier this month introduced free mandatory tests for travellers returning from high-risk areas and free voluntary tests for those coming back from elsewhere.

But the government now plans to scrap free tests for those returning from non-risk areas from September 15th, and to introduce stricter quarantine rules for those returning from risk areas.

From October 1st, those returning to Germany from a risk area will have to go into quarantine at home for at least five days before taking a test. Only if they then test negative can they be released early from the 14-day quarantine.

READ ALSO: Merkel calls on Germans to avoid travel to risk areas


Health Minister Jens Spahn had earlier this week called for mandatory tests to be scrapped after summer, with a focus on quarantine instead.

Reinhardt said ending free voluntary tests for people returning from non-risk areas was the right move in view of the finite resources available.

He also called for rapid tests, like those being used in the UK, to be introduced.

“The test strategy of the federal and state governments should also increasingly focus on rapid tests in addition to tests on specific occasions,” Reinhardt said.

These tests deliver a result after about 90 minutes, while other types of tests can take several days. “Doctors can advise patients directly in their practices or test stations and arrange for appropriate quarantine measures,” he said.

READ ALSO: Explained – How Germany plans to step up measures to control coronavirus spread

'Federal patchwork quilt confuses people'

Due to Germany's federal system, each of the country's 16 states has the right to impose its own coronavirus regulations, leading to a patchwork of rules which many say has been confusing throughout the crisis.

Reinhardt welcomed the federal and state governments' action to partially standardise their anti-coronavirus strategy. “Otherwise there is a threat of a federal patchwork quilt that will confuse people,” he said.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus – Five things to look out for in Germany this autumn

He added that differing reporting structures and quarantine rules from community to community doesn't help with the “acceptance of prevention measures”.

Reinhardt called for “much more coordinated and concerted decision-making and information structures in the public health service nationwide”.

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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”