What do I need to know?
SARS-CoV-2, also known as the COVID-19, is very contagious and still poses a public health risk. Here, we offer an overview of the most important information you need to consider, including what you need to know in case you are infected. Information on this page is continuously updated and is carefully verified to prevent misinformation.
What do I need to know?
If you think you may be infected, you should call a doctor. Describe your symptoms and ask them what you need to do. Make sure you contact them before going there. Do not head to your doctor’s office directly before contacting them first, unless they offer special visiting hours for COVID patients (so-called “Infektionssprechstunde”).
Important: If you face serious difficulty breathing, call 112 and ask for help. You can learn more about seeking medical help in emergencies in our chapter Emergencies.
You can also contact the special helpline 116117 or your local Health Department - to find the proper Health Department, visit the website of Robert Koch Institute. The search function is also available in English, Spanish and French. You may have to try a few times, as currently many people try to contact this number(s).
Please note: Avoid contact with others as much as possible. You can learn more in the section “when should I self-isolate? When should I go into quarantine?”.
Furthermore, keep in mind you need to inform your employer. If you live in an accommodation centre, you also need to notify the management.
There are (other) hotlines from which you can seek information in German, in case you suspect you may be infected:
- Independent Patient Consultation Germany: 0800 011 77 22
- Federal Ministry of Health (citizens' hotline): 030 346 465 100
- Counselling service for the deaf and hearing impaired – Fax number: 030/340 60 66 - 07, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
- “Sign telephone” (Videotelephony): https://www.gebaerdentelefon.de/bmg/
The Robert Koch Institute recommends going into quarantine if you have come in close contact with someone infected with Coronavirus. So you should leave your flat or room only for very urgent matters and avoid face-to-face meetings with other people. You should also test yourself regularly to know if you have been infected. After 5 days, you can stop these measures, but only if your test results are negative. This can be a self-test or an Antigen rapid test.
Rules of self-isolation at home:
When you test positive for COVID, you must stay home – until you are no longer contagious. That means until your COVID test is negative. You can take your first test after 5 days. This must be a test at an official test centre. You can find addresses of test centres nearby in the “How can I get tested for the coronavirus?” section.
It is essential to follow the self-isolation rules. In cases of a violation, you may face a fine or even a prison term. Try to remain calm and ask friends or neighbours to help you with groceries or find a delivery service online.
Please note: If you are infected with the coronavirus and live in s shared accommodation facility with no private bathroom, the whole place may need to be quarantined. If so, talk to management and (collectively) plan for the coming days. Doing so can make the situation somewhat more bearable for everyone. You can learn more in our chapter “Coronavirus: Information for Asylum Seekers”.
How is the duration of my quarantine/self-isolation calculated?
If you have been infected with the coronavirus, the day you tested positive counts as the first day of your self-isolation.
If you have had contact with someone infected and have to remain in quarantine, in principle, your quarantine period starts from the moment you find out that you have been in contact with a person who has tested positive. You should consider the last day on which you had contact with the person in question. If you have symptoms before you learn that a contact person of yours has tested positive, get tested immediately.
Please note: The way the start point of your isolation/quarantine is counted may be different depending on the Health Department responsible for you.
Can I shorten my self-isolation obligation by getting tested?
If you are infected, or someone with whom you have had close contact is COVID-positive, you can leave the quarantine after 5 days if the result of your COVID test is negative. When your child can go back to school or kindergarten depends on the regulation in your federal state.
At schnelltesttest.de, you can find out how well any given rapid test detects coronaviruses.
The higher the percentage of accuracy, the better the test.
Please note: The federal states can introduce further rules. You can learn more about the current rules in your federal state (in German) at bundesregierung.de. You need to select your federal state to see the results.
Yes, you can have yourself tested for coronavirus at a testing centre. You can also get tested in pharmacies or doctor's offices. There are rapid Antigen tests and PCR tests available. You will receive the test results as a printout and/or a digital document.
You can book an appointment at a test centre neaby, e.g., at www.zusammengegencorona.de. On mein-apothekenmanager.de, you will also find pharmacies nearby where you can do a rapid test. If your city is not listed, you can also google "Bürgertest", "Corona-Schnelltest" or "Corona Testcenter" along with the name of your city.
There are also so-called "self-tests" available to purchase in many drug stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. You can carry out these self-tests yourself at home. But they are not as reliable as PCR tests. At schnelltesttest.de, you can find out how well any given rapid test detects coronaviruses. The higher the percentage, the better the test.
Important: Since June 30, 2022, you must pay for a rapid antigen test. A test usually costs €8 or more. Check out the section „Who can benefit from free Rapid Antigen test?” to learn about other possibilities.
If your rapid test is positive, you can have a free PCR test. The PCR can determine with certainty whether you are infected. If your PCR test is positive, you are considered Coronavirus positive. If not, you are considered Coronavirus negative.
You can find out what to do if you have COVID in the section “I have tested positive. How can I protect my family or roommates?”.
If you have any questions about coronavirus vaccination, you can call the free hotline of the Ministry of Health on 0800-0000837. The staff there also speak English, Arabic, Turkish and Russian.
For some people, however, the tests are still free. These are:
- People who are getting tested after a coronavirus infection in order to end their home isolation.
- Persons providing home care for one or more family members.
Furthermore, you can have a free test if you want to visit these public institutions:
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Residential care facilities
- Facilities for people with disabilities
- Dialysis centres
- Day clinics
- Maternity facilities
Please note: You have to prove the purpose of your test to show that you are eligible for a free test. Therefore, be sure to have a sort of proof with you. This can be, for instance, the (positive) test result of your roommate or your own previous positive coronavirus test.
If you tested positive for the coronavirus, but you do not have severe symptoms, you will not be admitted to the hospital. But you will be sent to self-isolate at home. If you live with other people, there are a few rules to keep in mind:
- Stay in a separate room as much as you can.
- Visit the kitchen and bathroom as rarely as possible.
- If you cannot avoid contact: keep your distance and wear a face mask.
- Ventilate the space regularly.
- Do not share dishes, towels, etc.
- Clean light switches, doorknobs, etc. as often as possible.
- Wash your laundry separately with minimum 60-degree hot water.
Important: Do not cut your self-isolation short before you test negative.
It is still unclear whether (and how long) infected people are immune after their recovery from the disease. Generally speaking, your body produces antibodies after an infection – antibodies help prevent re-infection with the same disease. The same is the case with the coronavirus.
Current research shows that the number of antibodies in corona patients eventually drop – but it is unclear how quickly. Furthermore, there are different variants of the coronavirus in circulation. In the case of the coronavirus, it is currently assumed that infected people are only immune for about 3 months after the illness.
You are considered "recovered" if you meet all the following conditions:
- A coronavirus infection was detected with a PCR test. That is, if your PCR test was positive. Self-test or rapid antigen test do not count.
- You have been coronavirus negative for at least 28 days
- You were infected and have recovered within the past 90 days.
To prove that you were infected and have recovered, you can obtain a certificate of recovery ("Genesenenzertifikat”). You can get this certificate in many pharmacies and doctors’ offices. You can also get such a certificate via the Cov-Pass-App or Corona-App.
Since October 1, 2022, as a recovered person, you need to be vaccinated at least twice to be considered “fully vaccinated”.
The Corona Warning app notifies you when you have been near a person infected with the coronavirus. For instance, in the supermarket, on the bus or in the park. Or at an event. Then you can get tested and go into quarantine to prevent further infections. The more people use the app, the better it can protect us all.
Furthermore, you can check the current infection rates in your city in the Corona app or warn other users in case you find out you are infected.
You can also use the app to show your digital vaccination certificate. The app serves as proof, which enables you to get a cheaper rapid Antigen test. More on this in the section "Who can benefit from free Rapid Antigen tests?”.
The app can be installed quickly and free of charge. The data security of these applications has been guaranteed by the government.
You can find more information about the Apps in many languages on integrationsbeauftragte.de.
The best way to curb the spread of the virus if to follow the measures announced by the authorities, get vaccinated and receive the booster jab. You can find out more in our chapter "Coronavirus: Public Life". It is also crucial that we all adhere to the recommended hygiene and distancing measures:
- Wash your hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap as often as possible.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent arm when you cough and sneeze, or use a tissue.
- Dispose of used tissues immediately.
- Keep a distance of at least 1.50 meters from those who do not live in the same household.
- Wear a so-called “medical mask”. Please note: Check out our chapter "Coronavirus: Public Life" to learn where you must wear a mask.
- Use the Robert Koch Institute's Corona Warning app. You can find out more in the section "How does the Corona warning app work?"
- If you are in a closed space: ventilate the room as often as possible.
On the website of the Federal Center for Health Education, you can find more information on protocols of conduct during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the illnesses caused by coronavirus infection are relatively mild. Those infected often experience a bit of a cough, runny nose or fever. In some cases, however, the illness becomes quite severe, leading to breathing problems and pneumonia. The survival rate is estimated to be 90% or the infected.
However, many survivors struggle with the aftermath months after the infection. Many patients complain, for instance, of fatigue and exhaustion weeks or months afterwards since the virus may attack various organs (lungs, kidneys, intestines, heart, etc). Doctors call this "Long-COVID" or the "Post-COVID-19 syndrome". If you are not feeling better 4 weeks after infection, you should go to a doctor and have yourself examined. Researchers are currently trying to find the best treatment for long-COVID or the post-COVID-19 syndrome.
The Coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person when one coughs, sneezes, sings or talks. Even when the infected person breathes, the resulted tiny droplets (aerosols) produced stay afloat in the air for a time and may be inhaled by other people. The risk of infection is particularly high in closed, crowded spaces. You may also become infected with the virus if you touch a surface or someone's hand with the virus on it (and then, for instance, touch your face, eyes or mouth). However, this type of transmission seems to be rather rare.
A transmission via pets or products imported from abroad has not yet been reported. The virus can survive on surfaces such as Copper and cardboard for a few days.
The symptoms of a Coronavirus infection are similar to the flu. Some show more severe symptoms and suffer from respiratory distress or a lung infection. If infected with the coronavirus, you often notice the symptoms after a few days.
The most common symptoms (as of September 2022) are:
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- diarrhoea, vomiting or abdominal pain
- loss of senses like smell and taste
Please note: It may take up to 14 days before you notice the symptoms. That means one may be infected (and transmit the virus to others) while feeling quite healthy. One may even be infected and transmit the virus to others without having any noticeable symptoms.
Anyone may be infected by the virus, but the risk of a severe illness is much higher in the following groups:
- People older than 50
- People with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, diseases of the respiratory system, high blood pressure and
- People with suppressed immune systems (e.g. due to a disease or as a result of taking medications which suppress the immune system, such as Cortisone).
- People with obesity
If one is in more than one of the above-mentioned groups, they are considered to be at a high risk.
The internet is filled with rumours and misinformation about the Coronavirus. That is why it is crucial to seek information from reliable sources. The following sources can provide you with current, verifies information:
- You can find vital information about the Coronavirus (in different languages) on the website of the Federal Integration Officer.
- You can find lots of information about the coronavirus, post-COVID symptoms and a collection of FAQs on the website www.zusammengegencorona.de. The site is available in Arabic, English, Spanish, Russian and Turkish.
- You can obtain information on various topics related to the current Coronavirus pandemic on the Federal Government's website. The same information is also available on bundesregierung.de in "simple German".
- You can find the number of official coronavirus infections in Germany and worldwide on the website of the Robert Koch Institute.
- The website of the Federal Ministry of Health also provides a handful of information about the Coronavirus.
- On the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, you will find information about all currently applicable restrictions in Germany.
- The website of the World Health Organization (WHO) provides up-to-date information about Coronavirus in different languages. The page, however, is not currently available in German.
If you suspect that you are infected, contact the Germany-wide patient helpline by dialling 116117. They will let you know about the next steps. Please do not go to the doctor's office before first calling them.