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What should I do if I get Covid in Germany?

The rules around Covid infections in Germany have changed a lot over the last year, and many people are wondering what they should do if they catch Covid now. We've put together a guide to the latest rules.

A woman holds a positive antigen test for Covid-19.
A woman holds a positive antigen test for Covid-19. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

Can I get a free Covid “Bürgertest” if I have symptoms?

There are strict and limited categories for who is exempt from paying for an official antigen test (a so-called Bürgertest) in Germany now, and having symptoms is not one of them.

Those who can get an antigen test for free include children under the age of five, people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, pregnant women in their first trimester, as well as visitors and workers at various healthcare facilities. All of these exemptions require some sort of proof.

You can, however, get a free test if you can prove that a member of your household has Covid. For this, you would need proof of a positive test and proof of a matching residential address.

You can also get a free test to end your mandatory isolation. For this, you also need proof of having had a Covid infection.

READ ALSO: Colds and flu: What to do and say if you get sick in Germany

The federal Health Ministry’s website advises symptomatic patients to stay at home and call their doctor to find out what they should do next. If your doctor decides that you need a test, the cost of testing carried out by them will be paid for by your health insurer. 

Can I get a Covid test for €3 if I have symptoms?

Having symptoms alone isn’t enough to qualify for a €3 test.

For this, you will need to have a red warning on the Corona warning app, proof that you intend to go to an indoor event on the day of testing, or proof that you will have contact with someone with a high risk of contracting a severe case of Covid-19 (someone over 60 years of age, people with disabilities, people with pre-existing conditions) on the day of the test.

A test centre worker sticks a sign on a glass wall saying that Coronatests cost 3 euros. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Dunker

If you don’t qualify for either a free or €3 test, you will have to pay whatever your local test centre is charging. You can also test yourself at home using an antigen self-test.

If you have Covid symptoms, you can also contact your doctor who may arrange for you to do a PCR test (or advise another test). 

Do I have to do a PCR test?

No. Previously, people who tested positive for Covid were obliged to do a PCR test, but this is no longer a requirement.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where Covid infections are rising rapidly in Germany

If you want to get a PCR test, however, you’ll need proof of a positive Covid antigen test to get one for free. A spokesperson for the Federal Ministry for Health told The Local that a positive self-test is enough to entitle you to a free PCR test – but not an official antigen test (a so-called Bürgertest). 

Unlike earlier in the year, a red warning on the Corona warn app won’t suffice for a free PCR test.

I’ve tested positive for Covid – what now?

If you’ve tested positive for Covid with an antigen or PCR test, you have to isolate for at least five days. This rule applies even if you’re fully vaccinated and don’t have any symptoms.

A woman sits on her bed during isolation after a positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

The general rule across German states is that you have to isolate for 10 days, but you can end this if you’ve been symptom-free for 48 hours and have a negative test from day five. Some states allow people to end the quarantine from the fifth day onwards if they no longer have symptoms. Check your local authority for the rules around this in your area. 

During home isolation, you’re not allowed to have visits from anyone from another household.

Do I need to tell someone that I have Covid?

Unlike earlier in the year, you are no longer obliged to tell your local health authority that you have Covid.

How can I get a sick note?

In Germany, you need to provide your employer with a sick note (eine Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) after three consecutive days of illness.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

If you have Covid, you’ll be able to get this over the phone from your doctor until at least November 30th, 2022.

What do I do once the five days are up?

If the test is negative on day five, you can end your isolation. If not, you have to keep self-isolating until you get a negative test result.

Workers in healthcare, elderly care and nursing facilities, outpatient care services, and institutions for integration assistance, must be symptom-free for at least 48 hours and have a negative antigen or PCR test taken no earlier than day five following the first positive test to return to work. 

How can I get a proof of recovery certificate?

If you need an official certificate to prove that you have recovered from a Covid infection, you must have a PCR test. The certificate will be valid 28 days following the PCR test result.  Antigen testing is not sufficient for getting a proof of recovery certificate.

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Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Germany will end the requirement to wear face masks on long-distance trains and buses from February 2nd as the coronavirus pandemic loosened its grip on the country, authorities announced on Friday.

Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made the announcement after consultations with ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states, saying “the infection situation has stabilised.”

Lauterbach, however, encouraged people to continue wearing masks voluntarily “on the basis of personal responsibility”, adding “the virus should not be trivialised” and warning of potential longer-term impacts.

Several factors contributed to the policy change, Lauterbach said, including a higher level of immunity in the public and a reduced chance of new mutations, which meant a winter resurgence of the virus was unlikely.

The situation is “tense but manageable” in hospitals, Lauterbach added.

The requirement, which has been in place since the early stages of the pandemic, had been scheduled to expire on April 7nd but will now end sooner.

A number of German states – including Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein – have already relaxed mask rules in regional public transport, while several others are set to do so at the start of February. 

READ ALSO: Several German states to drop Covid masks on public transport in February

However, rules on the country’s long-distance train and bus network remain the central government’s responsibility.

Germany was one of the few remaining countries in Europe to keep a mask requirement, with many having scrapped rules or downgraded them to recommendations in 2022.

Alongside Germany, Spain is the only other large European country to maintain mask rules on long-distance trains and public transport, with the Spanish government announcing in October that these will remain in place until at least March 2023.

Free “test-to-release” tests to end 

In another key move away from pandemic measures, the government has also announced that people will have to pay for their Covid tests in order to end self-isolation from January 16th.

Medical staff who need to test before returning to work and visitors to clinics and care homes will still receive their tests free of charge until February 28th. 

Self-isolation rules vary from state to state, but some require a negative test if people want to stop isolating after five days instead of the full ten.

These are currently funded by the government, but funding is due to end on January 15th. 

The news comes after a group of five states announced that they would be ending mandatory self-isolation for people infected with Covid.

Instead, people will be required to wear masks while out and about and observe social distancing rules. 

READ ALSO: Four German states poised to end mandatory Covid isolation