Due to a high basic immunity, four federal states want to abolish the corona isolation requirement. Health Minister fears ‘patchwork’.
Anyone who tests positive for the corona virus no longer has to stay at home for five days in four federal states, but can leave home to go to work or school. Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein have agreed to scrap previous obligations to isolate infected people, as they jointly announced on Friday. Other federal states are considering it, while others are rejecting such a move. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has warned against lifting the isolation requirement.
The new rules should come into force “soon”, as announced by the four states, as early as next Wednesday in Bavaria. To do this, they must first amend their corona rules. It is planned that anyone who is knowingly infected with the corona can officially leave their home or apartment in the future, but must wear a mask outside the apartment and cannot enter hospitals or nursing homes. Healthcare workers should not be allowed to work if they test positive for the coronavirus.
This is how the four countries argue
- As many people are vaccinated or have had the corona, the population has a high “baseline immunity”, the current omicron variant usually does not cause any serious disease progression.
- Current, rather small waves in summer and this fall indicate a local phase transition. A disease is considered endemic if it occurs in an area with a relatively constant number of cases, such as influenza.
- Most EU countries are now waiving isolation requirements for people with coronavirus.
- It is about a new way of dealing with Corona with more personal responsibility on the part of people. The policy should be: “Anyone who is sick stays home.”
There was a lot of head shaking on Friday with Federal Health Minister Lauterbach. “It comes at an unnecessary time and does not have the approval of the federal government,” said the SPD politician in Berlin.
Therefore argued the Minister of Health
- There are currently “no medical reasons” to overturn mandatory isolation with around 1,000 deaths per week, a “potentially severe winter wave” coming “on the eve of more infectious variants”. Lauterbach named the omicron type variant BQ.1.1, which is more widespread.
- The workplace must be kept safe. It must also be prevented that infected people are forced into work.
- Federal states risk becoming a “patchwork” with different segregation rules.
The decision on how to deal with the obligation to desegregate is in the hands of the individual federal states. Only the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommends five days of isolation on the part of the federal government, but federal states previously implemented it in full.
The next few days will show whether Lauterbach’s “patchwork” predictions come true. In an initial reaction, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Bremen, for example, indicated on Friday that they wanted to maintain the isolation obligation. Saxony was open to the rules, while Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia wanted to test how to proceed. Other countries were reluctant and called for a collective approach.
Lower Saxony criticizes the advance
Hesse’s Health Minister Kai Kloss (Green) called the move “responsible and necessary” until the current virus variant is replaced by another that could overload the health system. Virologist Hendrik Strick is of the opinion that mandatory isolation cannot be used to contain the transmission process because the number of unreported cases is high. One should “switch to isolation if necessary. Anyone who feels sick should stay at home,” he told “Fulder Zeitung.”
“If parents are now allowed to send their corona-infected children to daycare centers and schools, the risk of infection there will logically increase,” Astrid Heinke, chairwoman of the Education and Science Union of Schleswig-Holstein, criticized the plan. It does not endanger the health of educators and teachers.
Lower Saxony’s Health Minister Daniela Behrens (SPD) said she considered it “epidemiologically fundamentally wrong to waive the obligation to isolate people with corona in the middle of the third fall of the epidemic”. “Even those who have no symptoms can spread the virus and infect other people,” he warned.
The Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) Nord has also criticized the Schleswig-Holstein state government’s lifting of the mandatory quarantine for people infected with the coronavirus. “Top priority still: If you’re sick, stay home.” This is the best way to protect others from infection, chairwoman Laura Puth said when asked by dpa. With health care systems aiming to reduce staffing, however, care should be taken to ensure that this is possible. “State governments must invest significantly more in hospitals and urgently reduce staff hours to ensure they are healthy at work,” Puth said.
The general manager of the business association of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein (UV Nord), Michael Thomas Froehlich, also reacted rather cautiously to the decision. “It’s right to ease and rely on more personal responsibility, but just letting infected people go to work with a mask is a bit short-sighted,” Froehlich said. Occupational safety must be ensured. Many questions remain unanswered for companies. “The economy is depressed because the opportunity for a common and ultimately uniform North German route is missed, as Hamburg’s rejection of the Killer Weg shows,” Froehlich said.