German regions back shorter COVID-19 quarantine

Germany should reduce the duration of quarantine to seven days from 14 for people who have been vaccinated and have caught COVID-19, according to a draft resolution from the country’s 16 regional health ministers on Wednesday.

The proposal has been forwarded to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and will serve as the basis for taking a decision at a meeting on Friday between the federal government and regional leaders, said Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek.

Germany is bracing for a wave of cases of the latest coronavirus variant, Omicron, which has already driven record infections in other European countries. Because Omicron is more contagious than earlier COVID-19 strains, but also less deadly, governments want to shorten quarantine to prevent mandatory isolation causing mass staff absences at hospitals and other essential services.

In recent days, Belgium has exempted vaccinated close contacts from quarantining and France shortened the isolation period.

Under the German proposal, people who have been vaccinated could exit quarantine after seven days if they get a certified negative antigen test, Bild reported. For the unvaccinated, quarantine would be cut to 10 days as long as they get a negative PCR test.

If a person is certified by their employer as working in critical infrastructure, the quarantine period could end after just five days with an antigen test.

Close contacts should be allowed to end quarantine after seven days — although this would only be possible for the unvaccinated after a PCR test. People who have been vaccinated in the last three months, or have received a booster shot, would not need to isolate.

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