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12:11 · 3 June 2021

When do I have to quarantine or self-isolate?

What should you do if you seriously suspect that you have COVID-19 or if there is a suspected case in your family, flat-share or at work? And what is the difference between quarantine and self-isolating at home? Read on to learn which rules apply in each case.

Stay at home if you are ill.

There is a difference between quarantine and isolation

Quarantine and isolation are not the same - even though you are required in either case to avoid contact with other people so as not to infect them. 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. The COVID-19 incubation time, that is the time between infection and the first positive test or onset of the first symptoms, can be about 10 days. This is why persons exposed to a higher risk of infection (category 1 contact person) are, as a rule, subject to a 14-day quarantine. Contact persons can have their home quarantine shortened from 14 to ten days. This is conditional on a negative test result (rapid antigen or PCR test). For more information, click here or contact your local health office.

Isolation is required when persons have been confirmed as carrying the coronavirus, i.e. persons who have tested positive. If they have no or only mild symptoms, the patients can isolate at home (self-isolation). If they experience severe symptoms, they are isolated at a hospital. Isolation can only be ended if it is certain that the patient is no longer able to infect other persons. This is the case at the earliest after 10 days with at least two symptom-free days.

What should I do if I feel ill?

If you develop any symptoms, please call your general practitioner, the out-of-hours patient care services at 0800 0000837 or your local health office. They will decide whether and when you will get tested based on the medical assessment of your situation and state of health.

Stay at home if you have any symptoms, except to make necessary visits to the doctor that should be scheduled beforehand by phone, and please remember to stick to the guidance summed up by the DHM formula: Keeping a distance (of at least 1.5 metres), following hygiene rules and masking up.

If you become symptomatic, minimise your contacts

Until you receive your test result, the other members of your household and your colleagues, with whom you had recent direct contact, are not required to self-quarantine – unless ordered to do so by the public health office. Nevertheless, it would make sense for the persons you were in contact with to also reduce their contacts, stay at home where possible and behave more carefully until they get their test result.

Self-isolate at home if you test positive

If you have tested positive for the coronavirus and do not need hospitalisation since your symptoms are not too severe, you will be required to self-isolate at home. If you live with your family, or in a flat-share, be careful to limit your contact with other members of the household so as to avoid possible transmission of the virus. You can achieve this by being careful to physically separate yourself from other members of the household. Visit the Robert Koch Institute’s guidance for the public for information about essential measures and preventive steps.

During this time, you are not allowed to receive visits from persons who are not members of your household. It is recommended that you have your groceries or other deliveries dropped off at your front door.

What should I do if someone in my surroundings is suspected of having COVID-19? If someone in your family, flat-share or at work is suspected of being infected with coronavirus, you do not automatically need to go into quarantine – unless the health office orders you to. While awaiting your test result, however, you too 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 a positive test confirms the suspicion and you have been in close contact with this person, you are ordered to go into quarantine. Close contact is defined as having talked to this individual in person for at least 15 minutes or been directly exposed to their respiratory secretions, i.e. sneezed or coughed at.

While in quarantine, you will be requested to keep a quarantine journal to log your symptoms, body temperature and the persons you had contact with.

Persons who, for instance, were only in the same room as an infected person within the previous two weeks, while not having had close contact with them, are not required to quarantine.

Persons entering Germany from risk areas must go into quarantine immediately The Federal Government has drafted a model quarantine ordinance that the Laender (states) implement under their own responsibility. Before entering Germany, please check the rules that apply in the Federal Land where you will be staying. Anyone who enters Germany from a risk area must quarantine for ten days. Before entering Germany, travellers are required to register at www.einreiseanmeldung.de and carry proof of this with them when entering the country. At the earliest five days after entry, persons entering Germany can prematurely end their quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. The test must have been taken at the earliest five days after entry into the country. This is not an option if they return from areas of variants of concern: Since mutant coronavirus strains are infectious for a longer period of time, a strict 14-day quarantine must be observed in this case.

Click here to read more about the rules for persons entering from risk areas.

When am I allowed to come out of quarantine?

The decision as to when a person’s quarantine or self-isolation may be ended is taken by the competent public health office; in the case of infected persons this is done in coordination with their attending physician. Quarantine on entry from a risk area ends when the person can present a negative test result. This test may have been taken at least five days following entry into the country. Within ten days of entry, this test result must be submitted to the competent authority immediately upon request. Quarantine on entry from an area of variants of concern solely ends after 14 days and cannot be shortened.

In the case of persons who are in quarantine because they are suspected of being infected, this measure is usually lifted after 10 days if they show no disease symptoms. In the case of persons who have been exposed to a higher risk of infection (category 1 contact persons), and are in quarantine because they are suspected of being infected, this measure is usually lifted after 14 days if they show no signs of disease. Contact persons can have their home quarantine shortened from 14 to ten days. This is conditional on a negative test result (rapid antigen or PCR test).

When am I allowed to come out of isolation?

Persons who isolate at home due to COVID-19 can have their isolation lifted at the earliest ten days after the on set of symptoms if they have been asymptomatic for at least 48 hours.

Moreover, also persons who, while confirmed as carrying the virus, do not show any symptoms (asymptomatic infection), can be released after ten days at the earliest.

Inform your contact persons via the Corona-Warn-App

Please enter you positive test result in the Corona-Warn-App. This will enable persons who were in your proximity to be informed of their risk encounter. The app supports the work done by the public health office by identifying contact persons who might need to self-quarantine. This enables chains of infection to be identified faster, relieves the strain on the public health system and makes it possible to contain the spread of the coronavirus more quickly.

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