Anyone who has had a positive corona test will no longer have to stay at home for five days in four federal states, but can leave the house and go to work or school. Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Bavaria, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein have agreed to abolish the previous obligation to isolate infected people, as they jointly announced on Friday. Other federal states are thinking about it, others reject such a step. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) warned against lifting the isolation requirement.

The new rules should come into force “soon”, as the four states announced, in Bavaria as early as next Wednesday. To do this, they must first revise their Corona regulations. It is planned that anyone who is knowingly infected with Corona may officially leave their house or apartment in the future, but must wear a mask indoors outside the apartment and may not enter hospitals or nursing homes. Healthcare personnel should not be allowed to work if they test positive for the corona virus.

This is how the four countries argue

– Many people are vaccinated or have had corona, the “basic immunity” in the population is high, the current omicron variant usually does not cause any severe disease progression.

– The current rather short waves in summer and this autumn indicate the transition to an endemic phase. A disease is considered endemic if it occurs in a region with a relatively constant number of cases, such as influenza.

– Most EU countries are now waiving isolation requirements for people infected with corona.

– It’s about a new way of dealing with Corona with more personal responsibility on the part of people. The principle should be: “If you are sick, stay at home”.

Federal Health Minister Lauterbach was met with a lot of shaking of the head on Friday. “This comes at an inopportune time and does not find the approval of the federal government,” said the SPD politician in Berlin.

The Minister of Health’s arguments

– There is currently no “no medical reason” to overturn the obligation to isolate, with around 1000 deaths per week, a “probably severe winter wave” that is coming “on the eve of a more contagious variant”. Lauterbach named the BQ.1.1 variant of the omicron type, which spreads more.

– The workplace must remain safe. It must also be prevented that infected people are pushed to work.

– There is a risk of a “patchwork” with different isolation rules in the federal states.

The decision on how to deal with the obligation to isolate is in the hands of the individual federal states. From the federal government there is only the recommendation of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for five-day isolation, but the federal states had previously implemented this as a whole.

The next few days will show whether Lauterbach’s “patchwork” forecast will come true. In an initial reaction, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Bremen, for example, indicated on Friday that they wanted to stick to the isolation requirement. Saxony was open to the rule, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia want to examine how to proceed. Other countries were reluctant and called for a joint approach.

More Reactions – Pro

Hesse’s Health Minister Kai Klose (Greens) called the step “responsible and necessary” as long as the current virus variant is not replaced by another that could overload the health system. Virologist Hendrik Streeck is of the opinion that the obligation to isolate cannot be used to contain the infection process given the high number of unreported cases. One should “switch to an isolation requirement. Anyone who feels sick should stay at home,” he told the “Fuldaer Zeitung”.

Other reactions – Contra

“If parents are now allowed to send their corona-infected children to daycare centers and schools, the risk of infection will logically increase there,” Astrid Henke, chairwoman of the Education and Science Union in Schleswig-Holstein, criticized the plans. This endangers the health of educators and teachers not insignificantly. Lower Saxony’s Health Minister Daniela Behrens (SPD) said that she considered it “epidemiologically fundamentally wrong to waive the obligation to isolate corona infected people in the middle of the third fall of the pandemic”. “Even people who have no symptoms can spread the virus and infect other people,” she warned.