German Health Ministry set to end quarantine for child travellers

After receiving criticism for being the only EU country to impose quarantine on children returning from abroad, Germany's health ministry has confirmed it will ease its Covid rules for kids.

German Health Ministry set to end quarantine for child travellers
Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, answers questions at a press conference in February. Photo: dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“Children have had to cope with a lot in this pandemic. That’s why we are relaxing entry requirements at a time when the current Omicron wave has passed its zenith,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Monday.

“Travel for families will be easier as a result. But they should still be cautious while on vacation,” he added.

Currently, children under the age of 12 who are not vaccinated and who return from a country classified as ‘high risk’ need to go into quarantine for at least five days.

The entire EU with the exception of Spain and Ireland is classified as ‘high risk’ at the moment due to prevalence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

At the beginning of Feburary, the EU recommended exempting young children from quarantine rules.

Germany is the only EU member still to require all unvaccinated children under 12 to go into self-isolation. Opposition politicians had criticized the government for a rule which they said put undue stress on families.

Lauterbach is to propose the rule change to cabinet on Wednesday and it is expected to come into force on March 4th.

Daniel Caspary, a member of the European parliament for the CDU, told Bild newspaper that the change was coming too late.

“Right now, many families with young children are on vacation. It would help these families a lot if the rule change were to be implemented immediately,” Caspary said.

Lauterbach also confirmed that the definition of a high-risk country would soon change to only include places where a Covid variant more deadly than Omicron was dominant.

SEE ALSO: What it’s like travelling to Germany from the USA in the Covid era

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German Health Ministry drafts sweeping changes to travel rules

Germany is on the verge of removing over a hundred countries from its high-risk list as the Health Ministry sets forward a number of changes to travel rules.

German Health Ministry drafts sweeping changes to travel rules

From March 4th, only regions with dominant virus variants that have “higher disease-causing properties” than Omicron will be put on the Robert Koch Institute’s high-risk list, which is subject to stringent travel rules.

The changes have been set out in a new draft law from the German Health Ministry that is due to be discussed by cabinet ministers on Wednesday.

They were agreed by state and federal leaders at a meeting on February 16th, in which the government also set its sights on a staged reopening plan.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What you need to know about Germany’s Covid reopening plan

The proposals for travel would see over a hundred countries scrubbed from the risk list to allow unvaccinated travellers to enter Germany from these regions without having to quarantine.

Though Omicron is one of the most highly transmissible Covid variants, it generally causes a much milder course of illness than previous variants such as Delta. 

It continues to be the dominant variant in the vast majority of countries worldwide.

Changes for families

In addition to changes to the designation of high-risk areas, there are also plans to make life easier for families with young children.

From March 4th, children aged 6-12 will be able to test immediately after returning from a high-risk area to allow them to avoid having to quarantine.

Previously, all unvaccinated people over the age of six had to quarantine for up to ten days, with the option to test for an early release on the fifth day of quarantine.

Children under the age of six will be exempted from the testing requirement and will be automatically released from quarantine after five days. 

READ ALSO: German Health Ministry set to end quarantine for child travellers

Explaining the changes, the Health Ministry pointed to the fact that there is currently no general recommendation for children under the age of 12 to get vaccinated.

Rather, the Standing Vaccines Commission recommends that children with health conditions or those who have contact with people in risk groups, such as elderly grandparents, should get the Covid jabs. 

Regardless of whether people are arriving from a high-risk area, a general obligation to supply proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test applies to everyone over the age of six upon entry into Germany. 

However, people who aren’t coming from a country on the RKI’s risk list don’t have to register on the Digital Entry Portal or quarantine upon arrival.