In what must be one of the most mind-bending public health measures adopted anywhere in the world during the entire Covid-19 pandemic, Germany recently reduced the period of validity of the country’s Covid-19 “Certificate of Recovery” from 6 months to 90 days – but only for people who are unvaccinated!
People who contract Covid after receiving the vaccination that was supposed to prevent them from doing so are not affected by the new rule.
The “Certificate of Recovery” provides holders the same privileges as proof of vaccination in the German “Covid pass” system. The reduction of its validity from 6 months to 90 days was first announced by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) – the German equivalent of the American CDC – in January, and it was then incorporated into an amended version of Germany’s “Infection Protection Act” (§22a) last month.
In response to the widespread confusion that the announcement provoked, the RKI clarified in mid-February that the new rule “exclusively” applies to people who are unvaccinated. At the same time, it offered ostensibly “scientific justification” for the reduction in validity, noting that according to studies, infection “with the Delta variant or an earlier virus variant” provides unvaccinated people with “reduced and temporally even more limited [sic.] protection against a SARS-CoV-2 infection with the Omicron variant as compared to reinfection with the Delta variant.”
The RKI simply asserts that “this constellation,” i.e. prior infection with Delta and reinfection with Omicron, is the “most relevant for the current epidemiological situation.” But obviously this constellation is not at all relevant to people currently getting infected with Omicron or another more recent variant and the issue of how long they should enjoy “recovered status.”
No argument, scientific or otherwise, is given for excluding people who have been vaccinated from the new rule’s application. Indeed, the RKI’s own “scientific justification” notes in passing that “initial findings” show vaccine efficacy against Omicron to be less than 20% by around 15 weeks after completed vaccination! The RKI coyly admits that “sufficient protection” can thus “no longer be assumed.”
Nonetheless, a vaccine certificate, the counterpart of the “Certificate of Recovery,” continues to be valid…indefinitely! Yes, that is right: “boosters” are recommended – and there have even been some, rather half-hearted, attempts to incentivize getting them – but they are not presently a condition for having a valid vaccine certificate.
Thus, persons who contract Covid after being vaccinated will not in fact have any need for a “certificate of recovery” in Germany, since their original vaccine certificate will continue to have unlimited validity – as if the vaccines were not only effective, but effective for nearly 18 months no less! Germany’s vaccine rollout began in December 2020.
German residents wishing to travel within the EU may, depending on individual country requirements, still need a valid “EU Digital Covid Certificate” and the latter is only valid up to 270 days after completed primary vaccination for purposes of cross-border travel. But, as the Robert Koch Institute conveniently notes in English in a FAQ here, certification of vaccination in the EU app is also accorded indefinite validity for domestic use in Germany “for now.”
The current information on Covid-19 vaccination on the German Ministry of Health’s website likewise notes that the validity of vaccine certificates in Germany is “unlimited for now” (bisher unbefristet). In addition to changing the certificate of Recovery rules, the March amendment of the Infection Protection Act stipulates that a booster will only be required to retain a valid vaccine certificate starting in October 2020 – by which time, it is possible that the certificates will not have any practical application anyway.
Natural immunity is, incidentally, also discriminated against on the EU-level: whereas completed vaccination makes an EU Digital Covid Certificate valid for 270 days, “recovery” only makes it valid for 180 days. The clock starts ticking from the time of a positive PCR test. Antibody tests are not recognized in the EU system at all.
The new German guidelines contain a further form of discrimination against the unvaccinated. Not only is the period of validity of the certificate of recovery lowered from 6 months to 90 days following a positive PCR test, but the “recovered status” only becomes effective 28 days after a positive PCR – even though the legally-required quarantine is only 10 days!
Why is Germany, in effect, putting extra pressure on people who are still unvaccinated to get vaccinated, when numerous studies have shown that Covid-19 vaccines provided extremely ephemeral protection against symptomatic infection from the start? The RKI itself now admits that they cannot be assumed to provide “sufficient protection” against variants. The policy has more to do with demanding obedience to authority than promoting public health.
While the German Bundestag’s rejection of mandatory vaccination for people over 60 last week has been widely celebrated, its passage of the package of amendments to the Infection Protection Act last month is undoubtedly of far greater significance. Those amendments substantially tighten the conditions for holding a valid “Covid Pass,” as seen above, but, at the same time, they substantially, but only provisionally, ease the measures requiring their use. The measures are to be reevaluated in the fall.
Germany, like much of Europe, has declared a kind of “summer of love,” with anti-Covid measures being largely suspended. But the mechanisms of the Covid pass are still very much in place on both the German and EU levels. We will find out in the fall what practical implications this has.