Hardtberg A family in the Hardtberg district got the message from the health department that they had to go into quarantine. But then the problems began. Because which rules apply is far from clear to everyone. Here’s an attempt to provide some explanations.
The call from the health department came on Monday. "My wife was told that the PCR test was positive," says Walter Mayer (not his real name) from the Hardtberg district. But he says the lady on the phone told him she didn't have much experience yet. "She only asked questions. And then she said that my wife should stay in quarantine until April 23. That would be 14 days, but it was only supposed to be 10 days.“
Reliable information is hard to come by during that time, he said. Especially since there is actually a formal difference in the terms: Suspected cases go into quarantine, those definitely infected into isolation. While the NRW Ministry of Health writes on its homepage that in the case of a positive result the automatic quarantine ends at the earliest ten days after the first pathogen has been detected, according to the city of Bonn it is 14 days. Some people also seem not to know that infected persons must immediately go into quarantine or self-isolation, even without an order from the public health department.
Care should be organized by acquaintances or friends
Those who are in quarantine then quickly ask themselves the question: how do I care for myself now? "Fortunately, we have friends who can help us," Mayer says. "If we didn't have them, we'd be screwed." They would leave the grocery bags outside the door. "I then transfer the money to them," says the 67-year-old. The city of Bonn advises the same. "Ask family members or someone from your circle of friends or acquaintances or your neighborhood to provide you with groceries, medicines and other goods for daily needs." People who cannot find help in their immediate environment can - according to the city - turn to the Corona Neighborhood Assistance.
It becomes difficult when a person has become infected in a household where other people live. Walter Mayer lives in a house with his wife and son. So there is enough space for everyone to have their own room. "My wife currently has a separate bedroom," Walter says. "If she was in the living room, we first air the room for an hour before I enter it. And then I also wear an FFP2 mask for safety." It's the same with the bathroom, he says. If his wife has used it, she airs it out immediately afterwards, and Walter then doesn't go into the bathroom again that day.
City of Bonn follows Robert Koch Institute guidelines
Regarding the different length of the quarantine period, Bonn's city spokeswoman Monika Hörig answers that the ten days on the page of the NRW Ministry of Health is about an automatic quarantine, "so that first of all it is ensured that people do not leave the quarantine prematurely if the health department does not report in time." The city of Bonn strictly adheres to the guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute. "This provides for a quarantine of at least 14 days from the date of testing," Hörig said.
But what else is the infected person allowed to do if he tests positive and has to stay at home in isolation? Is going to the mailbox still allowed? To this the city replies: "Whether the walk to the mailbox is part of it depends on the individual situation. This will be possible for a single-family home, but certainly not for a large apartment building where the use of an elevator may still be necessary." Quarantine, however, "means that the domestic isolation may only be broken on certain occasions, such as smear tests or medical care." Here's another rundown of important answers about quarantine:
What should I do if my rapid or self-test is positive?
Since a decree of the quarantine ordinance of the state from November 30, 2020 and a supplementary general decree of the city of Bonn from December 2, 2020, the quarantine orders are no longer applicable. This means that even those who test positive with a rapid test must immediately go into quarantine. Anyone who has undergone a PCR test because he or she has symptoms of a cold, for example, must also go into quarantine immediately. Likewise, if the health department or a person who has tested positive for Covid-19 informs you that you are a Category 1 contact person. You can find out where you can have a rapid test done in Bonn here.
Under what conditions am I a category 1 contact person?
Basically, anyone who has had a face-to-face conversation with a Corona-positive person for longer than 15 minutes is considered a category 1 contact person. So are people who have been exposed to a high concentration of infectious aerosol in a room for longer than 30 minutes, such as by partying together, singing together, or playing sports indoors without adequate ventilation.
What if I am returning home from abroad?
Anyone arriving in Germany by plane from abroad has a testing and verification obligation. This means that he or she must take a screening test no more than 48 hours before entering the country. If someone comes from a risk area (applies to all means of transport except airplane), he or she is obliged to get tested within 48 hours. Anyone who has been in a virus-variant area prior to entry is required to go into quarantine immediately after entry. The duration is 14 days, calculated from the day of departure from the area. Visiting of persons of another household is not allowed during these two weeks. Likewise, the person entering the country must immediately and without being asked present the negative test certificate to the competent lower health authority.
Does the entire household have to be quarantined in case of infection?
The Robert Koch Institute states that the quarantine order only applies to identified close contacts. Quarantine does not need to be ordered for household members of these contact persons. However, it is important that household members are informed.
When am I allowed to leave the quarantine?
For contact persons, the quarantine ends at the end of the 14th day after the last significant contact with the person who tested positive for coronavirus, unless the health department decides otherwise. The prerequisite for this is that no symptoms of illness such as fever, cough, cold or sore throat have occurred 48 hours previously. The contact persons can then be released from quarantine without a test.
For those tested positive, upon receipt of a positive test result (with PCR test, not rapid test), people with a confirmed infection must be quarantined for at least 14 days. Even with a positive PoC test (rapid test, not self-test), the person must automatically be quarantined until the result of a subsequent PCR test. If the PCR test is then negative, the quarantine is terminated; if it is positive, the quarantine is valid for at least 14 days from the positive PoC test result. Again, only those who are symptom-free for at least 48 hours are allowed to leave the quarantine.
What if I am infected with a mutation of the coronavirus?
In this case, stricter rules apply. For example, the health department orders a free test before the end of the quarantine for those who have tested positive and their household members. Only if the test value falls below a level that makes infection unlikely can the quarantine be ended with a new PCR test. For contacts in the first category who have had contact with a Covid 19 variant infected person, the following also applies: even though quarantine generally ends when symptoms are absent, contacts should still be on the lookout for symptoms during the third week and should have another screening test performed if symptoms appear.
What if I have to go into quarantine and can't work?
If the employee is unable to work due to a quarantine order, there is usually contractual continuation of pay. For the first six weeks, the employer pays wages. For the payments, the employer can apply for reimbursement from the authority responsible in the respective federal state (e.g., the health department). If the employer is not contractually obligated to continue to pay the remuneration, a claim for compensation takes effect for the protection of the employees, which is regulated in the Infection Protection Act (§ 56 IfSG).
What is the difference between quarantine and self-isolation?
The distinction lies primarily in whether or not one has symptoms oneself that indicate a Covid 19 infection. If one has been exposed to the risk of infection with the virus but does not yet have symptoms themselves, quarantine applies. On the other hand, if one has symptoms that indicate a possible Covid19 infection, self-isolation applies. For isolation at home, the following applies: be in a single room as separate from others as possible. Regularly ventilate all rooms. Do not use the kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and other common areas more often than absolutely necessary. Meals should be taken at separate times and places.
Where can I find information on quarantine in other languages?
The Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration provides information on its website about the latest resolutions on Corona in 20 different languages, including Russian, Turkish and Arabic, for example.
All info can be found at https://www.integrationsbeauftragte.de/ib-de/staatsministerin/corona.
The German Federal Ministry of Health provides information on vaccination in ten languages, including Turkish, Polish, Romanian and Arabic, on its site zusammengegencorona.de.
Original text: Thomas Leurs
Translation: Mareike Graepel