Addressing local outbreaks more precisely
The holiday season brings with it two particular challenges. Firstly, should there be a regional outbreak, it is important to prevent the virus spreading to tourist areas. Secondly, should there be an outbreak in a tourist region, every effort must be made to prevent returning holidaymakers spreading the virus to other parts of the country. The measures now agreed by the federal and state governments are designed to achieve both goals, and effectively contain regional outbreaks. Here is an overview of what was decided:
Responding swiftly to local outbreaks
Should a cluster of cases emerge, for instance inside a company or leisure-time group, or following a family celebration, the tried and tested measures will be taken: quarantine, contract tracing and testing the affected individuals and their contacts. It is important that affected individuals quarantine themselves as swiftly as possible. They do not need to wait for a positive test result. In terms of proportionality, isolating affected clusters is a significantly less invasive measure than imposing restrictions on an entire region.
Specifically limiting non-essential mobility
Should there be a further increase in the number of infections beyond the contact and outbreak cluster, containment measures should be extended at an early stage to include additional clusters and potentially affected areas. This also means that non-essential mobility into and out of the particularly affected areas should be restricted, at the latest if there is no certainty that the infection chains have been completely broken. These measures are to be very focused and should not embrace entire districts or towns.
Testing travellers arriving from affected areas
Travellers arriving from particularly affected areas may only be accommodated in any form of tourist accommodation if they can provide evidence that there are no grounds to expect any COVID-19 infection. Likewise, travellers from these areas entering any part of Germany will have to quarantine unless they can provide this evidence, which must be based on a test conducted no more than 48 hours before travel.
Quarantine for travellers returning from high-risk areas
Travellers returning from abroad and other travellers who have been in a high-risk area within 14 days of arriving in Germany are still required to quarantine at home immediately on their arrival. They must take the most direct route to their home and quarantine there for 14 days. They are also required to inform the local health office of their arrival.
The individual federal states will bring their own strategies for breaking infection chains into line with the measures now adopted. The Federal Health Minister has been asked to further fine-tune the national testing strategy at short notice to take account of returning travellers, and to draw up criteria laying out when tests are sensible and on what scale. This might be the case, for instance, if a tourist region has a significantly higher number of active cases than the average in Germany – even if the region does not yet meet the criteria for designation as a high-risk area.