The Legal Basis for Quarantine
§ 30 Infection Protection Act (IfSG) as a means of preventing infectious diseases from spreading. COVID-19 is a very infectious disease and it has now hit every country bordering Germany to different degrees of severity. When it comes to quarantine the legal text primarily concerns quarantine in hospitals but the location for quarantine is not limited to them. Domestic homes are also sufficient in cases where the person does not require to be brought to hospital.
For COVID-19 coronavirus, the quarantine period is 14 days. 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 or if they have been in an area with high rates of the virus. Breaking quarantine can have major legal consequences as we have previously outlined. However, from Friday this week (10th April) there will be enforced quarantine for people traveling from abroad into Germany.
Enforced Quarantine when Entering Germany
The German government has decided to introduce a measure from April 10th whereby people coming into Germany from other jurisdictions will have an enforced quarantine of two weeks. Unlike the travel ban into Germany, this measure will apply to German and European Union citizens as well as those with permanent resident permits and others entering Germany. However, due to the travel ban most people who do not fit those mentioned categories cannot enter Germany at this moment in time. It will apply from April 10th onwards and not be backdated to prior to its introduction.
Quarantine means that the person should not leave their place of quarantine for the duration of it. Social distancing is recommended at the moment but enforced quarantine goes beyond mere social distancing. With quarantine, the person should keep social contact to an absolute minimum. Meeting other people involves a degree of risk that must be avoided wherever possible.
This enforced quarantine for two weeks will apply to those traveling to Germany by boat, plane, train or car. There is no exception made based on mode of transport.
Exceptions to Enforced Quarantine
Although German citizens, EU citizens and those with permanent residence permits are not excluded from the requirements, there are exceptions. For example, cross-border commuters are allowed still to travel to their place of work, some business travelers (where they can demonstrate that their business requires them to enter Germany) as well as medical professionals. The other exception is those working in the transit of goods. Those in this industry also do not need to go through the process of enforced quarantine.
German agricultural businesses do employ seasonal workers in order to collect certain foodstuffs such as esparagus in the spring. For businesses planning to bring in such seasonal workers they will have to demonstrate that their workplace has sufficient hygienic measures in place such as hand-washing facilities. They will also have to demonstrate that they have capacity to place those working in a two week quarantine. If they follow the requirements, they will be able to continue bringing in workers from outside of Germany.
Border Closures and Duration of Measures
The borders around Germany have largely closed. In particular, these measures have impacted the borders with France, Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Further measures may be taken as the crisis develops. The closing of borders has caused huge disruptions for people who normally travel across these borders without problems. Tens of thousands of people have faced delays, disruptions and have been prevented from crossing the borders. The enforced quarantine measure now for those entering Germany is just an extension of the difficulties facing people entering Germany.
It is still difficult to say when the measures will be lifted and when life will return to normal. Many of the measures introduced were done so with a month as the deadline which would expire in mid-April. However, as case numbers of COVID-19 continue to rise and fears of what will happen once measures are loosened it is difficult to predict when borders will open and when it will settle down. The fear is that should measures be loosened too early that the virus will spike again as people increase their social contact.
For further information about the developing situation in Germany as this crisis develops; please visit the website of the Robert Koch-Insitut. Here you will find updates in German and English.
At Schlun & Elseven Attorneys, we are also committed to keeping our clients updated about the current crisis. On our Coronavirus COVID-19 Crisis Center page we post articles regularly about legal developments as they happen. If you are looking for legal assistance during this difficult time, than look no further than our legal team.
Our offices are located in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf and we have conference rooms in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. However, at the moment we would urge our clients to contact us remotely as we can provide our services by phone, through email and by video conferencing. If you need further assistance when it comes to enforced quarantine or any other COVID-19 related legal topic then please contact us today for further counsel. Our lawyers remain active during this time and are looking forward to assisting you.