Following the Bundestag's decision on Thursday evening, the Bundesrat cleared the way for new rules on quarantine and isolation in a special session on Friday morning. The federal and state governments had agreed a week ago to adapt the regulations in connection with the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The new rules basically stipulate that infected persons can be released from isolation after seven days if they present a negative PCR or rapid test. Self-tests are not sufficient for so-called free testing from isolation. There are additional requirements for hospital and nursing home workers. In order to be able to leave isolation after seven days, they must present a PCR test and must not have shown any signs of illness for at least 48 hours beforehand. For all infected persons, the isolation period is longer without a negative test and lasts ten days.
Close contacts who have not received a booster vaccination against coronavirus or have not just recovered from an illness must also be quarantined for ten days without testing but can clear themselves after seven days with a negative PCR or rapid test. Again, self-testing is not sufficient. Contact persons working in the healthcare sector can also free themselves from quarantine after seven days with a rapid test; unlike infected persons in isolation, a PCR test is not mandatory. In addition, the criterion that they must have been symptom-free for at least two days does not apply to healthcare contacts.
Children and adolescents who are considered close contacts of infected persons can leave quarantine after only five days if they present a negative PCR or rapid test. Persons who have already received a booster vaccination, those who have been vaccinated twice and those who have recently recovered do not have to be quarantined. The second vaccination or the illness must have occurred no more than three months previously.
The federal states must implement the new rules and have the option of additionally issuing their own regulations. Against the background of the particularly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the federal and state governments had agreed to shorten the periods. This is to prevent, for example, operations in hospitals from coming to a standstill because many contact persons have to remain in quarantine for the full duration - usually ten days.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) sees an end to the pandemic coming. There is a possibility to end the pandemic in Germany this year, Lauterbach said in the Bundesrat. Now, this possibility must be used. Not every country is in a position to do so, he said. "We are privileged," said the SPD politician.
Image by Oleg Gamulinskiy