July 31, 2021

Rule tightening: “Non-vaccinated travelers returning from risk areas in quarantine”

Dhat doesn’t happen every day: Jens Spahn (CDU) is silent. The health minister, usually not reluctant to give a quick answer to the corona situation, did not want to comment this weekend on a possible tightening of the entry regulations for travelers returning from risk areas.

A topic that, in view of the beginning of the summer vacation, needs quick clarification with a view to the vacation plans of many citizens – on which the coalition factions of the CDU / CSU and SPD in the Bundestag are just as disagree as the prime ministers and health ministers of the federal states.

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So far, according to a decision by the Federal and State Health Ministers’ Conference on June 16, this is a binding state of affairs, holidaymakers or business travelers who return to Germany by plane from a corona risk area can completely bypass the ten-day quarantine obligation that normally applies if they go directly in front of them test negative after departure and immediately after arrival at home. Only the second test is compulsory for travelers by car and train.

Only travelers from high-incidence areas are allowed to test themselves after five days of quarantine at the earliest. Returnees from virus variant areas such as Portugal or Great Britain are subject to a 14-day quarantine obligation, which cannot be circumvented even with negative tests or proof of vaccination.

Coronavirus - tourism in Mallorca

Finally vacation and lying on the beach – according to some SPD and Green politicians, stricter controls could soon wait

Source: dpa / Clara Margais

While the latter rule is undisputed, politicians from the SPD, but also the Greens, urged at the weekend to impose at least a five-day quarantine even when returning from simple risk areas. In response to a request from WELT, the Social Democratic Mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, pleaded that “all non-vaccinated travelers returning from risk areas and high-incidence areas should go into quarantine, which will be lifted at the earliest after five days in the event of a negative PCR test”.

According to Tschentscher, the current corona entry regulation is “too lax in several places”. It also allows immediate free testing with a rapid antigen test. “That is too uncertain,” said the Hamburg mayor and doctor. Prior to this, the Schwerin Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig, also a Social Democrat, had already warned of a corresponding change to the Corona entry regulation.

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Lower Saxony’s SPD Prime Minister Stephan Weil is also calling for “double testing for all returnees who have not yet been fully vaccinated”. Even in countries with comparatively low incidences, “you run the risk of meeting other holidaymakers who carry the much more contagious Delta virus”, says Weil.

In contrast, the North Rhine-Westphalian state government does not consider tightening the entry rules to be necessary. More important than another change to the regulation is “that the citizens have a comprehensive, low-threshold accessible test structure available so that they can be tested – beyond the existing test obligations – in order to prevent infections from going undetected” Düsseldorf Ministry of Health on WELT request.

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Prof. Dr.  Heiko Becher is director of the Institute for Medical Biometry and Epidemiology at the UKE

The previous quarantine obligations were sufficient. Health Minister Karl Josef Laumann (CDU) nevertheless recommends that every vacationer “please test yourself before you return to your workplace and repeat this test after about five days”.

With a view to the “tight controls” announced by the Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) in “Bild am Sonntag” of travelers returning to airports and state borders on vaccination cards or negative corona test results, North Rhine-Westphalia were also reluctant to refer to them existing statutory test obligations for air travel and only announced “random checks” at the borders with the Netherlands and Belgium for the holiday season.

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Affect travelers by car: Bavaria’s Minister of Health Holetschek insists on the importance of border controls

Source: dpa-tmn / Angelika Warmuth

Bavaria, on the other hand, emphasized that it is “crucial for fighting the pandemic this summer that … the test records at the border crossings and airports are not just randomly checked”. Holetschek received support on Sunday from the Lower Saxony head of government. “I expressly support the demand for controls at the borders to determine whether there are any current negative tests. That is exactly what has been lacking so far, ”Weil told WELT.

The parliamentary groups in the Bundestag do not agree on how to most efficiently contain the pandemic this summer in view of the low domestic infection rates on the one hand and the international spread of the delta variant on the other. Even within the coalition of the Union and the SPD there are at least deviations in the assessment of the situation.

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The deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Dirk Wiese, pleaded for “increased testing and close controls”. These are the right approach, especially when it comes to returning travelers from risk areas. The SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach had previously spoken out more aggressively, who, like Tschentscher in Hamburg, demanded a quarantine of at least five days for returnees from risk areas, which could then only be ended with a negative PCR test.

The Union is much more cautious about this. Parliamentary group vice Stephan Stracke (CSU), like compatriot Holetschek, relies less on changing the test regime than on increased controls at borders and airports. “For this we have an effective instrument in hand with the nationwide coronavirus entry regulation.”

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Lauterbach and Co, on the other hand, get support from the Greens. Their health policy spokesman Janosch Dahmen also called on the federal government to tighten the entry regulations and to introduce a general double test requirement – “before and on the fifth day after return”. According to Dahmen, Germany is “in a critical phase of the pandemic, the slow vaccination rate and the second vaccination rate that has been correspondingly too low to date are not enough to save us from a recent increase in the number of cases”.

While the AfD considers stricter measures to be necessary and pleads for quarantine only to be imposed on people who have tested positive, the FDP called on the Robert Koch Institute to develop “evidence-based different algorithms” with which the coronavirus can be combated in a more differentiated manner than with blanket test and quarantine arrangements.