The COVID-19 crisis grows more serious by the day. Many people in Germany have had to self-isolate and quarantine themselves due to fear that they will share the virus. Breaking quarantine can have a serious effect as we will see in this article.

The need to quarantine may be because a person has returned from abroad, they have been in contact with someone with the virus or because they have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Self-isolation is a restriction on a person’s rights. It restricts their ability to work as well as to conduct their daily affairs. In this article we will look at the legal aspects of self-isolation. In particular, we will focus on what is the legal response to breaking quarantine and what criminal liability can arise due to this action.

If you have a particular issue or legal question concerning events related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, please contact our law office directly. Our lawyers can be reached by phone, email and also provide video conferencing options. For more legal information on the Corona crisis, please visit our Crisis Dashboard.

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Update October 2020

As the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Germany, the requirement to quarantine when needed remains. Breaking quarantine rules can result in fines of up to €25,000 or even 5 years in prison. Breaking quarantine can legally be considered as bodily injury or attempted bodily harm which accounts for the strict rules around it. These rules have been enforced up to now with over 35,000 people receiving fines for various breaches of quarantine and other corona rules. In Hamburg alone, close to €1,000,000 in fines have been handed out.

Should you visit Germany from a “risk area”, or have been in a “risk area” 14 days prior to entering Germany, then you will likely be entitled to a free corona test. It is advised that you should take the test after at least 5 days of isolating upon arrival. Should you avail of this test and the result is negative, then your need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival will be reduced. How the tests are managed is the responsibility of the individual Bundesland / German state. The list of areas which are considered international risk areas reflects how the virus is spreading in that particular country. Poland, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland are countries considered international risk areas, while for many countries it refers to individual regions.

Germany also has internal “risk areas” with cities such as Cologne, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and many parts of Berlin featuring on this list. Risk areas in Germany refers to areas where there are 50 or more new infections per 100.000 inhabitants within a week. If you are living in such a risk area it is advised not to travel to other areas, however if you do travel you may face difficulties in booking hotels / hostels and other forms of accommodation. The rules on this matter depends on the rules of individual cities and areas.

If you are facing legal difficulties for alleged breaching of COVID-19 rules, contact our lawyers today for careful examination of your case and clear legal advice. Contact us using our details below this article.

The Legal Basis for Quarantine

The German Constitution recognises human dignity as inviolable and inalienable (§ 1 Grundgesetz), however the state recognises that what is good for the many must sometimes come before that of the individual. Quarantine is allowed for under German law through § 30 Infection Protection Act (IfSG) as a means of preventing infectious diseases from spreading. The text primarily mentions in hospitals but the location for quarantine is not limited to them. Domestic homes are also sufficient in cases where the person is not showing serious symptoms.

For covid, the quarantine period is 14 days. As stated above this quarantine order can be given regardless of whether a person is showing symptoms. Placing a person in quarantine can occur if a person has been in contact with an infected individual.

How to Avoid Breaking Quarantine: What does Quarantine Involve?

The German government recommendations during the crisis have been to self-isolate as much as possible. This means reducing face-to-face social contact to a minimum and limiting movements. However, should a person have to quarantine themselves due to coming into contact with confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus patients or due to having the virus,  they must remain at home for at least 14 days. Social contact must be at a minimum in order to prevent the spread of the virus. In other words, even going out shopping is deemed to be breaking quarantine. The government is following the recommendations of the Robert-Koch Institut in following these restrictions.

Should a person be in quarantine, in ideal circumstances they should even self-isolate from the rest of the people in their household as much as possible. It is difficult to achieve this in practice but can be achieved through staying in different rooms from each other or through maintaining distance from the other people in the residence. These rules for quarantine apply even where the person is not showing any outward symptoms of having COVID-19 coronavirus.

Is Breaking Quarantine Punishable by Law?

Just as German law legislates for the legality of quarantine it also legislates for breaking quarantine. Breaking quarantine and the legal penalties involved can be found under § 75 (1) Infection Protection Act (IfSG). Under this provision, a person found breaking quarantine can face a fine or a prison sentence. The prison sentence in question can be up to 2 years whereas the fine is dependent on the monthly income of the person. If a person has been found to have intentionally broken the quarantine order and spread the virus then they can face up to a five year prison sentence under § 74 Infection Protection Act (IFSG).

If you are facing criminal sanctions for breaking quarantine it is vital to get in contact with our criminal law team. Availing of the services of an accomplished criminal lawyer can make a huge difference in a case.

Can I Lose my Job due to being in Quarantine

Being in quarantine is not a reason for losing your job. In such a scenario the person would have a strong claim for unfair dismissal depending on the circumstances of the case. Please see our article on “Job Terminations: COVID-19 Coronavrius” for more information. It is also important to know that it is also not a reason to lose out on your pay. § 56 Infection Protection Act (IfSG) states that employers can receive compensation from the government for continuing to pay workers who are out of work due to infection. See our article on “Employment Law: COVID-19 Coronavirus” for more information.

However, these are the rules for those who follow the quarantine rules. Should an employee be found to be breaking quarantine to go to the workplace this may bring about different results. Such actions are dangerous to co-workers and other members of the public. This type of action, breaking quarantine to go to a public place, may have serious criminal law consequences as mentioned above. Committing criminal actions is a legitimate grounds for an employer to dismiss an employee without notice.

What Other Legal Steps can the Government Take?

Issuing quarantine orders is not the only step the government can take according to German law. We have already seen actions taken in the form of the travel ban to Germany as well as the closing of schools and universities. Under § 28 Infection Protection Act (IfSG) actions such as limiting public interaction and assemblies as well as curfews or “lock downs” can also be introduced. If such steps are introduced then breaking such curfews / lock downs can also lead to charges and potential fines and prison sentences under § 75 Infection Protection Act (IfSG).

At the moment there are major restrictions already in place such as bans on public gatherings of more than two people. It is possible that further steps will be taken in the next few weeks in order to reduce the level of growth of the virus. At Schlun & Elseven Attorneys, we will keep our clients informed of these issues as they arise.

Criminal Lawyers in Germany

At Schlun & Elseven Attorneys our criminal law legal team provide assistance to our clients in a range of issues. Even at these difficult times our lawyers can provide you with the advice and support you need. Our offices are located in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Aachen but we also provide support from a distance through email, phone and video conferencing.

As this crisis deepens, it can be difficult to keep up with all the rapid changes that are happening daily. However, our lawyers will provide you with the information and support that you need. Our lawyers can provide their services in English as well as German and other languages. If you have had issues around breaking quarantine or other criminal law issues relating to COVID-19 please contact us directly. We are looking forward to working with you.

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