Germany tightens dining rules due to Omicron, loosens quarantine

Germany before nationwide lockdown
A poster reads "I protect you" during the local coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Dresden, Germany, December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel

BERLIN, Jan 7 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and regional leaders tightened the rules for restaurant and bar visits but shortened COVID-19 quarantine periods on Friday in response to the Omicron variant.

Scholz added that all 16 state leaders supported the implementation of a general vaccination mandate and that the Bundestag lower house of parliament would discuss drafts of it soon.

Under new measures decided on Friday, people in Germany who have received a booster shot will not have to isolate after being in contact with someone who was infected with the coronavirus.

They also are exempt from stricter rules on dining requiring a negative test result in addition to proof of vaccination or recovery to enter a restaurant or bar, as part of an effort to encourage more people to get a booster shot.

Scholz said it would help control infections "better than we do now".

Omicron now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said in its weekly report. It said 41.6% of people had received a booster shot.

Guido Zoellick, president of the DEHOGA hospitality industry association, called for financial support to prop up businesses that are already struggling from the existing measures.

Horst Egger, a Berlin steak house owner, said it would make more sense to close the restaurant for a month than to keep it open with all the curbs.

"When guests come, there is usually someone who is not vaccinated. So we have to send the three or four people away again," Egger, who has been in the gastronomy business since 1979, said.

Germany also shortened quarantine for infected people and their contacts to 10 days from 14, though they can end the quarantine period after seven days with a negative test.

Children will be able to return to school with a negative PCR or antigen test after five days.

Reporting by Miranda Murray and Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Alison Williams

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