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

German federal and state governments are expected to update the rules on self-isolation for those who test positive and their close contact cases. Here’s a reminder of the current rules.

EXPLAINED: What are the current Covid rules in Germany around quarantine?
EXPLAINED: What are the current rules in Germany around Covid quarantine? Photo: Getty Images via AFP

Several changes to Germany’s Covid-19 rules could be on the way later this week, following Friday’s planned meeting between the country’s federal and state governments.

Changes to quarantine or self-isolation regulations are widely expected. Here’s an overview of the country’s rules as they now stand.

Quarantine Time for Positive Tests or Contact cases

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 using a PCR test in Germany must isolate at home for up to ten days, including those who are fully vaccinated.

This can be shortened to five days with a negative PCR test taken on that day or seven days with a negative antigen test taken on day seven.

Unvaccinated close contacts of those who test positive must isolate at home until they can get tested for Covid-19. If the test is negative, these close contacts can typically leave quarantine. 

Fully vaccinated or recovered contact cases are exempt from having to quarantine at all, nor do they need to take a test, as long as they show no symptoms.

However, there are exceptions to these rules in the case of infections with the Beta, Gamma, or Omicron variants. In these cases, a 14-day at-home quarantine is required for those testing positive and their contacts—even for those who are fully vaccinated or recovered. There is also currently no way to shorten that quarantine time through a negative test.

If you get a notification on Germany’s Corona-Warn-App of having been in contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid-19, you are advised to call your local health authority, your doctor, or the German medical assistance hotline at 116 117. They will likely arrange a free test for you.

Any questions about quarantine can be forwarded to your local health authority.

READ ALSO: What to do if you get a red alert on Germany’s Covid warning app

Quarantine After Entering Germany from Abroad

Germany currently designates “high-risk” countries and “virus-variant areas.”

All travellers coming back from these countries must fill in an entry declaration. Vaccinated and recovered people returning from a high-risk area are exempt from both pre-departure test requirements and quarantine rules upon landing.

Unvaccinated travellers must present a negative test taken no more than 48 hours before entering Germany, and quarantine for ten days after arriving.

They then have the option of getting a negative antigen or PCR test on day five to be released early.

Travel from virus-variant areas is restricted to German citizens and residents, who must get a PCR test no earlier than 48 hours before landing in Germany and quarantine for 14 days without the possibility of shortening it. These rules also apply also to the vaccinated and recovered.

EXPLAINED: How Germany removing UK from virus-variant list affects you

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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.”