When to quarantine or self-isolate
What is the difference between quarantine and self-isolation at home? How should I act in each case? Read on for more about the current rules for both.
The difference between quarantine and isolation
During quarantine and during isolation, contact with others must be avoided so as not to expose them to a confirmed or a suspected coronavirus infection. Both measures are important tools in preventing the spread of infection. Responsibility for the measures to be taken lies with the German Länder based on regional infection rates.
Quarantine for suspected cases of infection
Quarantine is always required in cases where it is unclear whether someone has become infected, either through contact with an infected person or after returning from a risk area. During the incubation period, there is a risk of passing on the infection to others. For people with a confirmed infection, the risk is greatest shortly before and after symptoms begin, but they can also infect others if they have no symptoms at all.
For people who test positive, isolation ends after five days
Isolation ends five days from the first positive test result. Even after day five, it is strongly recommended that you have a rapid antigen test and continue in self-isolation after day five until you receive a negative test result.
In order to be able to return to work, staff in healthcare facilities, senior citizens’ residences and residential nursing homes, outpatient care and rehabilitation facilities, also require a negative test result from a rapid antigen or PCR test taken on day five at the earliest (negative PCR result or a positive test result with a CT value >30) and a prior 48-hour symptom-free period.
The criteria for ending isolation may differ for people with a suppressed immune system and for residents of residential care homes.
What if someone in my immediate surroundings suspects they are infected?
If someone in your family, your flat-share or at work suspects they have a coronavirus infection, while waiting for your own test result, you should minimise the number of people you have contact with, stay home as much as possible and be cautious.
Quarantining as a contact person
If you have had close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, it is expressly recommended that you stay at home for five days and avoid contact with others. The first full day of quarantine is the last day of contact with the infected person. It is also advisable to take daily (self) tests.
For staff in healthcare facilities, senior citizens’ residences and residential nursing homes, outpatient care and rehabilitation facilities, daily testing with a rapid antigen test or an NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) is mandatory before returning to work up to and including day five.
Should I stay in quarantine longer if someone in my household becomes ill?
If you are in quarantine because someone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus and then others in your household also become infected, the five-day quarantine period is not extended. The quarantine period counts from the day on which the first person in your household first showed symptoms. If you become infected, then you must self-isolate.
Quarantine concerning children
According to the recommendations published by the Robert Koch Institute, anyone with a high risk of having become infected should go into quarantine. This can be an entire family or an individual family member. No matter who is involved, all members of the household must adhere to important hygiene rules. Please note that quarantine at home poses a particular challenge for children, not least where distancing rules are concerned. Children in quarantine need special care and personalised, child-appropriate solutions.
Quarantine rules after returning from high risk and virus variant areas
Anyone entering Germany who at any time in the 10 days prior to entry has been in an area classified as a high risk or virus variant area must go straight home – or to other accommodation at their final destination – and self-isolate immediately upon arrival (quarantine at home).
The isolation period following return from a high risk area is usually ten days. Persons who are vaccinated or recovered and submit their vaccination or recovery certification via the online entry portal of the Federal Republic of Germany need not quarantine at home. In cases where proof of vaccination or recovery cannot be submitted prior to entry, quarantine can be prematurely ended as soon as proof is provided.
The quarantine requirement does not apply for children under the age of six. For children aged six to twelve for whom no proof of vaccination or recovery has been submitted, the quarantine period ends five days from the day of entry – alternatively they can forego quarantine by providing a negative test immediately upon entering Germany from a high risk area. Click here to read more about the rules for persons entering from risk areas.
For return travel from virus variant areas, vaccinated, recovered and unvaccinated persons are required to both quarantine for 14 days and present a negative PCR test (no older than 48 hours prior to entry for independent entry or no older than 48 hours from the start of transport for entry by air, ferry, bus company, or train). In addition, prior to entry these groups are required to register their arrival in Germany via the portal and also carry proof of this registration when entering the country. Vaccination and recovered persons can shorten the required 14-day quarantine period only in very few exceptional cases. As a general rule, and subject to very narrowly defined exceptions, a transport ban also applies to persons entering the country from virus variant areas.
See the Robert Koch Institute website for a list of countries currently classed as high risk and virus variant areas.