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Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Germany

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Germany

Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Germany

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was first identified during an initial outbreak in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and subsequently spread to more than 150 other countries around the world, including Germany. In March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic. 

Here is what you need to know about coronavirus in Germany. 

Coronavirus maps of Germany

If you want to know more about the development of the coronavirus outbreak in Germany compared to the rest of Europe, the below map shows the biweekly change in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Europe: 

Recent COVID-19 numbers in Germany

How is the coronavirus infection rate developing in Germany? Are recent coronavirus numbers going up, plateauing or starting to go down? The graph below shows the recent COVID-19 numbers in Germany:

COVID-19 mortality rate: Daily confirmed deaths in Germany

What is the coronavirus mortality rate in Germany? Approximately how many people have died from COVID-19 so far? The chart below shows the number of confirmed deaths per day as the seven-day rolling average: 

How many people have been vaccinated against coronavirus?

Germany has been vaccinating people against COVID-19 continuously since December 27. The map below shows the total number of coronavirus vaccine doses administered per 100 people in Germany and the rest of the world:

Current / Live coronavirus updates: Testing

The number of people getting tested for COVID-19 in Germany has increased dramatically since June. Find out how and where you can get tested further down below. The following graph shows how many people are being tested for coronavirus currently:

Latest German news about coronavirus (COVID-19)

At IamExpat we are working constantly to provide our readers with accurate and up-to-date information about the development of the coronavirus crisis in Germany, including the latest case numbers, the current coronavirus measures, and more. You can find the latest news about COVID-19 in Germany at the end of this page, under Related Stories. 

RKI: New coronavirus cases in Germany

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is Germany’s centre for disease control and prevention. It is an independent government agency responsible for monitoring and combating infectious and non-infectious diseases. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the institute has been monitoring the situation in Germany, collating data from numerous health authorities, estimating the risk for the population, and providing health professionals, the government and the general public with recommendations. 

The RKI gives daily morning briefings about the epidemiological situation in Germany, including data on new daily infections and deaths, the estimated number of recovered patients, and their latest risk assessment. These situation reports are published in English on the RKI’s website a little later in the day. Once a week, they also provide information about hospitalisations, test frequencies and demographic breakdowns.

The Robert Koch Institute has also developed a COVID-19 dashboard (in German), which provides a complete overview of the coronavirus situation in Germany. As well as case numbers per district and federal state in Germany, it also provides detailed demographic breakdowns. 

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 - variously referred to as coronavirus or corona in Germany - is the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 for short). It is highly contagious. 

The virus spreads via a number of means, most commonly involving saliva and other bodily fluids, which can form small droplets or aerosols. When an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, sings or even speaks, they can spread these small droplets to other people. This is especially the case when people are in close contact for an extended period of time.

The severity of COVID-19 symptoms vary greatly from person to person. In more severe cases, the virus can lead to the hospitalisation or even death of the patient. Other people, however, may remain asymptomatic. This makes it even harder to track and control the spread of the virus. 

Coronavirus symptoms

COVID-19 patients generally develop symptoms one to 14 days after becoming infected. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are: 

  • A high temperature / fever
  • A new, continuous cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • A sudden loss / change in sense of taste and / or smell

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms - although some people have reported a number of other symptoms, including sore throat, runny nose, tiredness / fatigue, muscle ache, dizziness, diarrhoea, nausea and headache. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, you are encouraged to isolate at home and reduce your contact with others as much as possible. In Germany, this period of isolation should last at least five days, plus an extra two days after your symptoms have disappeared. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to get a coronavirus test (see below). 

If you are suffering from severe symptoms (such as difficulty breathing or a very high temperature), you should contact your GP or the out of hours medical on-call service immediately. 

Prevention and treatments for coronavirus

In some people, coronavirus can be symptomless. It is therefore important that you follow the basic rules outlined by the German government to contain the spread of the virus - keep your distance, wash your hands, and wear a mask. This is the best way to protect yourself and others.

If you only have mild COVID-19 symptoms and you’re self-isolating at home, you can treat your symptoms by getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids. If you need to, you can take over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol to treat your pain or fever. 

If your symptoms worsen and you need to be taken to hospital, there are two medicines that have shown promise in helping to treat severe COVID-19 infections: 

  • Dexamethasone / hydrocortisone: These two steroids calm down inflammation in the body and, in clinical trials, have been shown to cut the risk of death for coronavirus patients on ventilators.
  • Remdesivir: This antiviral drug was originally developed to treat Ebola. It also works by dampening down inflammation and initial findings suggest that it cuts the odds of a patient in hospital developing severe COVID-19. 

German government coronavirus measures

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the 16 federal states have been holding regular “coronavirus summits” (Corona-Gipfel) to discuss progress and decide if any new measures or restrictions are needed. IamExpat has been providing regular coverage of the press conferences at which decisions are announced. 

Basic rules

While coronavirus restrictions have been tightened and loosened a number of times in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic, and often vary from state to state, the government has devised a set of standard rules that everyone should follow to keep the spread of the virus in check. 

The focus is on the so-called “AHA formula” (AHA-Formel): 

  • Keep a distance of at least 1,5 metres from other people (Abstand halten)
  • Be mindful of hygiene by washing your hands regularly / coughing and sneezing into your elbow (Hygiene beachten)
  • Wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose (Alltagsmaske tragen)

This formula has since been supplemented with an “L” and another “A”:

  • Keep indoor areas well ventilated (Lüften)
  • Use the government’s coronavirus warning app (Corona-Warn-App)

Corona-Warn-App

The German coronavirus warning app, known as the Corona-Warn-App, was launched nationally on June 16, and later became available to download on mobile devices internationally. It is designed to enable contact tracing for individuals infected with coronavirus, thereby interrupting infection chains at an early stage.

Using Bluetooth, it measures whether mobile phone users have come within two metres of each other over an extended period of time. If one of those users later tests positive for coronavirus and reports this in the app, it anonymously notifies other users that they have come into contact with an infected person. If you receive a notification, you are advised to self-isolate until you receive a negative coronavirus test result. 

For the app to work, both the infected person and the non-infected person need to have downloaded it on their phones and have their Bluetooth enabled. It is not mandatory to download it in Germany - but more than 18 million people have done so voluntarily. You can find more information on the app in our Corona-Warn-App guide.

FAQ about COVID-19 in Germany

Unsurprisingly for a disease initially known as the “novel coronavirus”, people have a lot of questions about COVID-19 and the pandemic situation in Germany. Here we have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about coronavirus in Germany. Note that this is a new disease, caused by a new virus, and we are constantly finding out new things, so the answers to these questions may change over time. 

Who is classified as a risk group for COVID-19?

COVID-19 can make anyone seriously ill, but for some people the risk is higher. The risk groups for coronavirus are as follows: 

  • People aged 70 or over
  • People with pre-existing health conditions, such as respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, autoimmune diseases
  • People with morbid obesity

When do I need to go into quarantine because of coronavirus? 

If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, you need to self-isolate at home until at least two days after your symptoms have disappeared. If you fulfil certain criteria, you may be able to get tested for COVID-19.  

If you have come into contact with anyone who is infected with coronavirus, you will need to go into quarantine. The same applies if a member of your household tests positive, or if you have returned from a so-called “risk country” abroad. As of December 1, 2020, the minimum duration of this period of self-isolation has been brought down from 14 to 10 days, and you may be able to bring this down to five days with a negative coronavirus test result (see below). 

How do I know if I have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19?

There are several different ways that you can be notified if you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The person themselves may call you; you may get a call from your local health authority (Gesundheitsamt), or if you have the Corona-Warn-App installed on your phone, you may get a notification. 

How do I get tested for coronavirus in Germany?

To avoid overstraining the testing capacity of laboratories, Germany has adopted a targeted approach to coronavirus testing. Therefore, the following groups of people are currently eligible for a coronavirus test in Germany: 

  • People with severe symptoms such as bronchitis or pneumonia, shortness of breath or fever.
  • People experiencing a loss of their sense of taste or smell.
  • People who have come into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
  • People whose symptoms have worsened.
  • People in communal facilities and accommodation (e.g. schools, daycare centres, refugee accommodation, penal institutions), if a coronavirus case has been found in the facility. 
  • Patients, residents and staff in care facilities, dental practices or hospitals that have an outbreak of the virus. 
  • People who have returned from a risk area abroad (see below).

If someone only has mild symptoms, such as a slight cough, a test may still be possible, if any of the following criteria are met: 

  • The person belongs to a risk group.
  • The person works in nursing, a doctor’s office or a hospital.
  • The person was “exposed” (i.e. with more than 10 people in a closed and poorly ventilated room).
  • The person has had contact with someone with an unexplained acute illness and is in an area with a high seven-day incidence of coronavirus (more than 35 per 100.000 inhabitants in the last seven days).
  • The person has had or will have contact with many people or high-risk people.

Ultimately, the decision whether to test or not lies with the doctor, so if you are in any doubt, or you are concerned about your symptoms, it’s best to contact your regular GP. Outside regular office hours, you can also contact the medical on-call service by calling 116 117. If the situation becomes life-threatening, you should call the emergency number 112.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19 in Germany?

After you have spoken with your GP, they will make arrangements for you to get a test. This may be in your regular doctor’s surgery, or it might be at one of the designated test locations. You need to stay in quarantine until your appointment. 

How do they test for coronavirus?

The test is done by taking a sample from the back of your throat or nose. A doctor or nurse will insert a cotton swab deep in your nose and / or tickle the back of your throat around your tonsils. The sensation is uncomfortable, often provoking a gag reflex and causing your eyes to water, but not normally painful. After the swab is collected, it is inserted in a phial of liquid and sent off for testing. You need to go home and wait for your test result to arrive.  

How long does it take to get a coronavirus test result?

Depending on the type of test you take, it can take anything from a few minutes to several days to receive your coronavirus test results. Of course, you may need to wait a little longer if test capacity is particularly stretched. Your GP will contact you to let you know the result of your test. It’s important to remain at home until you get a negative result. 

Even if your test result is negative, that only means that you did not have coronavirus at the specific moment in time when the test was carried out. It is therefore important to continue observing the AHA + L + A rules. 

If you test positive, you will be asked to quarantine at home until you get a negative test result. 

How long does it take to recover from COVID-19? 

There is still a lot that the medical world does not know about the virus - and so it’s hard to say how long it takes to “recover” from coronavirus. In Germany, this is compounded by the fact that the Robert Koch Institute does not require health authorities to report recovered cases - they only make estimates based on the data available to them. 

Broadly speaking, the recovery time differs from person to person. Some people are asymptomatic, some people only have mild symptoms, while others need to be taken to hospital. Some recover within days, while others will have related issues for weeks or even months. However, generally, your recovery time will also depend on how healthy you were before you got the virus.

Can I get COVID-19 for a second time?

Around the world, there have been a number of reported cases of people who have recovered from COVID-19, only to contract it again. However, it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions about reinfection, as the number of reported cases is too low. Even if you have had coronavirus and recovered, you should still follow the basic AHA guidelines set out by the German government. 

COVID-19 and your job

Most people have experienced some form of disruption to their working life during the coronavirus pandemic. Those who are able to have mostly been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Millions of workers in Germany have also been placed on Kurzarbeit (short-time work). This tried-and-tested scheme, which was put to extensive use during the 2008 / 2009 financial crisis, compensates lost earnings for employees who have temporarily been put on reduced working hours due to circumstances beyond the employer’s control. By partially taking over the cost of paying workers’ salaries, the government scheme tries to help companies avoid job losses. 

Even with this scheme, however, a number of people in Germany have already lost their jobs. If this is the case for you, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. If you’re looking for work, you should also check the IamExpat Job Board for expat-friendly openings. 

Coronavirus and travel to / from Germany

As in other countries across the world, the coronavirus crisis has resulted in unprecedented travel restrictions across Germany: no matter whether you’re looking to travel to your home country and back as an expat, or just take a holiday, travelling this year has been very difficult. 

Travel restrictions in Germany

Germany was one of many countries to close all of its external borders in March this year, and travel restrictions still apply for entry from a large number of countries. The website of the Federal Foreign Office gives the latest information on entry restrictions in Germany

Entering from a risk country

From November 8, 2020, all travellers coming to Germany must register via an online portal prior to their entry if they have been in a designated risk area (as defined by the Robert Koch Institute) in the 10 days before coming to Germany. They must also be able to present proof of this registration when entering Germany via an airport.  

Mandatory quarantine in Germany

If you have been in a risk area in the 10 days before coming to Germany, you are also required to self-isolate at home for 10 days. Depending on the rules in the federal state you’re travelling to, you may be able to take a coronavirus test after the fifth day and, if the result is negative, end your quarantine. 

Note that it is mandatory to wear a mouth and nose covering on all forms of public transport in Germany, as well as in shops and in busy outdoor places where the minimum distance of 1,5 metres cannot be maintained at all times. 

COVID-19, schools, and your child’s education

During the first wave of coronavirus infections in Germany, primary and secondary schools were forced to shut in all 16 federal states. Since then, however, the government has done all it can to keep schools open, as it considers education vital for children’s well-being, development and health. There is also some evidence to suggest that the spread of COVID-19 between children or from children to adults is limited. 

However, the government does advise that primary and secondary schools and childcare facilities pay particular attention to hygiene and cleanliness and ensure all classrooms are well-ventilated by regularly opening windows to “flush” out the air. In areas with high coronavirus infection rates, children may also be asked to wear mouth and nose coverings when not seated at their desks. 

While allowed to remain open, some universities in Germany have already opted to switch to digital teaching only for the winter semester. 

Coronavirus and pregnancy

The German government’s official coronavirus website states plainly that pregnant women and newborns are not considered risk groups when it comes to COVID-19. In children, in particular, coronavirus infections tend to be mild. 

While noting that there have been isolated cases of newborns that may have become infected with the disease in the womb, the government maintains that in most cases children whose mothers have tested positive for the virus show no signs of the disease after birth. There is also no evidence of miscarriages caused by coronavirus. 

Nonetheless, the same basic precautionary measures still apply if you are pregnant: keep social contacts to a minimum, maintain a 1,5-metre distance, and sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow. If you suspect that you have contracted COVID-19, you should speak to your doctor or, outside of business hours, call the medical on-call service on 116 117. 

Coronavirus and your business

The coronavirus measures in Germany have had a serious effect on entrepreneurs and freelancers. The federal government has therefore put a number of financial support schemes in place to help self-employed people weather the crisis. These schemes will also be extended into December, as long as the (partial) lockdown remains in place. The institution providing the schemes, and the way to apply, varies from state to state. See our guide to applying for financial assistance in Germany for more information. 

Coronavirus and events in Germany

Except for a brief respite over the summer, most events in Germany, including festivals, concerts, fairs, and even the nation’s beloved Christmas markets, have not been able to take place in their usual form this year. While some have managed to go online or make themselves corona-proof, others have had no choice but to postpone until 2021. IamExpat aims to keep our event listings as up-to-date as possible, but it’s always a good idea to check the event organiser’s website for the latest information. 

COVID 19 and animals

Around the world, there have been a handful of reports about animals becoming infected with COVID-19 - including people’s pets. In almost all cases, the animals appear to have contracted it from their owners. 

So far, there is no evidence to suggest that a dog or cat infected with COVID-19 can pass it to another cat or dog, or even a human. However, there have been reports of members of staff on mink farms contracting coronavirus from the infected animals. 

If you own a pet and are concerned, you should follow the same basic guidelines as applies to humans: 

  • If someone in your household is showing symptoms, there is little chance of your pet contracting the virus, but nonetheless, avoid cuddling or close contact with the animal until a coronavirus test has been completed.
  • If someone in your household is showing symptoms, and your pet is also showing symptoms, keep the animal indoors and try to prevent it from coming into contact with other animals and people. If the animal has severe shortness of breath and / or diarrhoea, contact your vet immediately.