COVID summit: No restrictions or relaxations, new rules for PCR tests

COVID summit: No restrictions or relaxations, new rules for PCR tests

At the press conference following the coronavirus summit on January 24, Chancellor Olaf Scholz made the announcement everyone was expecting: restrictions will not be tightened; neither will they be loosened. Some changes will also be made to Germany’s PCR testing policy. 

German government keeps restrictions in place for time being

Omicron continues to spread rapidly across Germany. On Monday, the seven-day incidence rate rose to a new record high of more than 840 new cases per 100.000 inhabitants. Despite the rising number of infections, however, the situation in hospitals in Germany is much less dramatic. At the weekend, the hospitalisation rate was 3,77. For comparison, during the Christmas holidays in 2020 it rose above 15. 

Faced with this coupled rising infection rate and stable hospitalisation rate, the federal and state governments therefore agreed to continue on the current course, for the time being. All restrictions currently in place in Germany will remain in place until the next federal summit. However, some other significant changes will be made, primarily to the country’s approach to PCR testing. 

PCR tests to be prioritised for at-risk groups

Given the high number of coronavirus infections in Germany, laboratories processing PCR tests are currently overloaded. The government has therefore decided to ease pressure on the test centres by prioritising PCR tests for certain risk groups and people who work with them. 

In future, therefore, PCR tests should be prioritised for older people, people with medical conditions and weakened immune systems, and employees working at hospitals, GP surgeries, and nursing homes. 

This will not come into effect immediately, as the government needs to first change the coronavirus test ordinance.

Rapid antigen tests can be used to test to release

The government is putting more emphasis on rapid antigen testing as part of the revised quarantine rules. This means that, in future, rapid antigen tests should be used instead of PCR tests to test oneself free from self-isolation or quarantine on day seven. This also applies to workers in hospitals, care facilities and integration assistance facilities (previously a PCR test was required).

More notice on changes to recovered and vaccination statuses

Responding to the huge criticism the government attracted by changing the rules about how long a recovery status lasts for at short-notice, the federal and state leaders agreed that decisions regarding vaccinated and recovered statuses should in future be announced and justified “in good time before they come into force.” 

Changes to contact tracing

Changes will also be made to contact tracing procedures, which are currently completely incapacitated by the high number of cases. In future, health authorities will be asked to concentrate on tracing contacts in the case of outbreaks in the hospital and care sector. 

Next coronavirus summit

The next summit will take place in by February 16, 2022, at the latest, when the leaders are expected to discuss possible steps to relax restrictions, so long as “an overload of critical infrastructure in general and the healthcare system in particular can be ruled out.” A reopening strategy for large events is expected to come earlier, around February 9.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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