These days, new quarantine rules go into effect in all states. For caregivers, quarantine (after contact) and isolation (after infection) will be shortened. What does this mean in detail?
Question 1: Why is a change in quarantine rules necessary?
In November 2021, the new coronavirus variant Omicron emerged, against which even vaccinated and recovered individuals are not optimally protected. Meanwhile, Omicron cases are taking an ever-increasing share in this country. The RKI’s weekly situation report of Jan. 13, 2022, indicates that Omicron was detected in about 73 percent of sequenced samples. However, the proportion varies greatly from state to state: while it is 96 percent in Bremen, it is 11 percent in Thuringia.
The extreme increase in Omicron cases worries experts. Although Omicron appears to be more often mild, the virus variant is likely to incapacitate many workers through quarantine (after contact) and isolation (after infection). To protect systemically important work areas (also called critical infrastructure) from a critical loss of personnel, the federal and state governments adopted new quarantine rules on Jan. 7.
Question 2: What previously applied to vaccinated nursing staff?
Previously, nurses had to immediately quarantine and test appropriately if they developed symptoms. Quarantine was also scheduled if caregivers had close contact with a person infected with a variant of the virus. In the case of contact with a person infected with Omicron, the Robert Koch Institute has generally recommended a 14-day quarantine.
Question 3: What isolation and quarantine rules will apply in the future?
The period of isolation and quarantine will be significantly shortened. The federal-state resolution explicitly mentions employees in hospitals and care facilities such as nursing staff. For them, the following will apply in the future: after infection, 7-day isolation obligation with subsequent PCR test. Important: release from the isolation obligation only with a negative PCR test or Ct value (crossing threshold) below 30 and at least 48 hours of lack of symptoms.
After contact with infected person, 7-day quarantine obligation with subsequent PCR or rapid test This applies to caregivers with no vaccination or Corona infection more than three months ago.
Without testing, the isolation or quarantine requirement ends after 10 days.
Question 4: What applies to vaccinated and recovered caregivers?
The new decision states that vaccinated and recovered contacts do not have to be quarantined under certain circumstances. Namely, if they are freshly recovered or vaccinated. “Fresh” in this context means that the illness or the final vaccination did not occur more than three months ago.
Question 5: What applies to boostered caregivers?
Boosted caregivers are also not required to be quarantined as a contact.
Question 6: When do the changes go into effect?
There is no set common start date for the changes. The joint resolution of January 7th 2022, merely states that “the Federal Government and the Federal Lands will make the necessary changes to the legal regulations in a timely manner.” The Bundestag and Bundesrat have since agreed. On Saturday (January 15, 2022), the resolution was published in the Federal Gazette.
In many Federal States, the new rule already applies – for example, in Bavaria, Berlin, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In Brandenburg, it will apply starting Monday (January 17). However, there are Federal States that have to implement their own ordinances with the new regulations. The Ennepe-Ruhr district in North Rhine-Westphalia shows that this sometimes happens sooner than expected. The district implemented the regulations in consultation with the state Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs shortly after they became known. This is made possible by the so-called case-by-case decisions, which could also be applied elsewhere.
Question 7: Is there any criticism of the changes for nursing staff?
Most healthcare workers think the new regulations make sense. Quarantine stop by testing of contacts after seven days is also welcomed by many experts, such as immunologist Carsten Watzl. But there are also critical voices. They do not question the procedure as a whole, but are concerned that the shortened quarantine to ensure care could possibly become a risk of infection. That is, if there is not enough testing capacity available for the necessary PCR tests.
Question 8: How do other countries deal with quarantine?
Other countries are also loosening up. Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States are responding to the pandemic with adapted isolation and quarantine regulations. In France, infected persons are now released from isolation after 7 days. Contact persons are no longer subject to quarantine there, provided they are fully vaccinated or have recovered. Another requirement is repeated testing.