Quarantine rules lifted for fully vaccinated, asymptomatic US personnel at Ramstein and Stuttgart bases
By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 21, 2021
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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Coronavirus restrictions, including quarantine and testing requirements, were eased on bases in two German states where tens of thousands of American service members, Defense Department civilians and their families live, U.S officials said this week.
Brig. Gen. Joshua Olson, commander of the 86th Airlift Wing on Ramstein Air Base in Rheinland-Pfalz, on Tuesday authorized an exception to the restriction of movement policy and said incoming personnel would no longer have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated. The change aligns with state guidance issued earlier this month.
Unvaccinated children, however, will still have to quarantine, he said at a virtual town hall meeting.
“Host nation guidance only provides exemptions for people who are fully vaccinated two weeks after their last vaccination,” Olson said.
Chief Master Sgt. Hope Skibitsky, top enlisted leader for the 86th Airlift Wing, told the meeting that the quarantine requirement has been waived for fully vaccinated, asymptomatic people returning to Germany from risk and high-incidence regions.
A person is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after having a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or the same amount of time after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson.
Germany’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, moved the U.S. from its list of high-incidence countries to the lower level “risk” classification in March, as the U.S. vaccination campaign gathered speed. The Pentagon last week issued force health protection guidance that lifts mandatory restriction of movement for personnel 14 days after completing vaccination.
Vaccinated air travelers are still required to have a negative coronavirus test to enter Germany, but Rheinland-Pfalz has lifted the testing requirement for those traveling to the state by land, according to rules published April 10.
Besides no longer having to quarantine, vaccinated individuals who have no symptoms of infection don’t need to provide a negative coronavirus test when visiting restaurants, barbershops and other businesses that require one, Skibitsky said.
Instead, they have to present a vaccination card, showing which vaccine they got and when it was administered. German officials have said cards from military clinics are “accepted off base at any establishment” as proof of inoculation, she said.
“All that is really good news,” Skibitsky said. “It’s reducing the testing, it’s reducing a lot of the risk that we’ve had, and it’s based on our vaccinations.”
Travelers returning to Rheinland-Pfalz must quarantine for 14 days, whether they have been vaccinated or not, if they’ve been in a country or area where variants are known to be circulating, such as Brazil, India, several African countries and the Moselle region of France, which borders Germany.
Fully vaccinated individuals in Stuttgart, Baden-Wuerttemberg, where U.S. European Command and Africa Command have their headquarters, don’t have to quarantine after travel unless they have COVID-19 symptoms, a memorandum issued Tuesday by U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart said. Symptomatic people must quarantine until they produce a negative coronavirus test and 48 hours after the symptoms resolve.
Also in Stuttgart, vaccinated individuals who had close contact with someone who tests positive for the coronavirus may return to work after a negative PCR test and supervisor approval.
A spokesman for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, one of the largest U.S. Army commands in Europe with headquarters in Kaiserslautern, said it expected to issue updated quarantine guidance for its soldiers based on the new host nation rules Thursday.
The U.S. military’s vaccination campaign in Europe has gotten off to a slow start, but military leaders have pledged that everyone who wants a vaccine will be offered at least a first jab by mid-May.