Germans who keep refusing to quarantine could be put in detention centres under new Covid rules

Jorg Luyken
·3 min read
A doctor holds an injection vial with the Corona vaccine in the vaccination center for employees at the municipal hospital in Dresden, Germany - DPA
A doctor holds an injection vial with the Corona vaccine in the vaccination center for employees at the municipal hospital in Dresden, Germany - DPA

Germans who repeatedly refuse to enter quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus will be held in detention centres under new rules drawn up by regional authorities.

Legal experts say the detention centres are permitted by emergency powers granted to German authorities during a pandemic.

The eastern state of Saxony, where hospitals have been struggling to cope with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country, has confirmed plans to hold quarantine breakers in a fenced off section of a refugee camp.

Saxony is set to construct the centre next week. The regional state has stressed that the facility will only be used for people who have repeatedly broken the rules around quarantine even after facing financial penalties.

Three further states - Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein - have also either already created such facilities or are in the process of doing so, a report in Sunday’s edition of Welt newspaper stated.

In Baden-Württemberg, two hospitals will have rooms reserved for repeat offenders, which will be guarded by police. Brandeburg will use a section of a refugee centre, while Schleswig-Holstein will use an area within a juvenile detention centre.

Dr Christoph Degenhart, an expert in administrative law, told Die Welt that state governments had been given powers to detain people for breaching quarantine rules under the disease protection act, an emergency law that was passed by the German Bundestag last March and renewed in November.

It is unclear just how many people have refused to follow quarantine rules in Germany. But several states have said that they have no plans to set up similar detention facilities due to the fact that so few people have broken the rules.

With public debate in Germany highly fractious since the beginning of the winter lockdown, the detention facilities have drawn comparison to political prisons in communist East Germany. Joana Cotar, an MP for the populist Alternative for Germany party, accused the state government of Saxony of “reading too much Orwell.”

Ethical questions around the pandemic were also stirred by comments made by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who told Bild newspaper that people who have been vaccinated should be allowed to use cinemas and restaurants again.

He justified his opinion by saying that vaccinated people can no longer take a hospital ventilator away from another person and should thus be allowed to go about their everyday lives once again.

“It's true that inequality would be created but it would be for a transitional period and if there is evidence to back it up, it's constitutionally okay,” Mr Maas said.

One politician from the conservative CDU party rejected the proposal on Sunday as "social dynamite."

Faced with public scepticism, the German government has repeatedly pledged neither to make vaccines mandatory nor to afford privileges to the vaccinated that would create mandatory vaccination “through the back door.”