Germany plans to relax COVID quarantine rules as cases soar

A person walks past a closed COVID-19 testing station in Berlin
A person walks past a closed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing station, in Berlin, Germany, March 18, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

March 31, 2022

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to end mandatory quarantine for most people who catch COVID-19, the health ministry proposed on Thursday, as numbers isolating with the infection top four million.

Under the existing rules, people with COVID must quarantine for at least seven days.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wants to change that to a voluntary five days of self-isolation with the recommendation of a COVID test at the end of that period, proposals seen by Reuters showed.

Under the plans, drawn up by his ministry and the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, health workers would still have to isolate for a five days and require a negative PCR test to end their quarantine.

The proposals, which have yet to be discussed with authorities in Germany’s 16 federal states, have emerged after COVID cases soared in recent weeks, hitting staffing in hospitals and many other workplaces.

Daily numbers have fallen again in recent days, with the Institute reporting 274,901 new infections on Thursday to take total cases since the pandemic began beyond 21.1 million, with nearly 130,000 deaths.

Separately, Bild said Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government had been forced to drop plans to introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for everyone aged over 18 because it could not muster a majority for it in parliament.

Instead, it was aiming to pass legislation to make vaccinations compulsory for those over 50, the newspaper said.

Asked about the report at a news conference, Scholz said his government was in the process of building a majority in parliament, without giving further details.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Emma Thomasson; Writing by Madeline Chambers; editing by John Stonestreet)