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‘We can’t risk Germans bringing virus back’ from non-EU travel

The German government on Wednesday extended a travel warning for countries outside the EU until August 31st over ongoing concerns linked to the coronavirus pandemic, in a blow to top summer destinations like Turkey.

'We can't risk Germans bringing virus back' from non-EU travel
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

Germany introduced an unprecedented warning against all foreign travel in mid-March at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

But from Monday, Germans will be able to travel freely again to EU member states as well Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision to extend the travel warning for so-called third countries – those outside the EU and the no-passport Schengen zone – was necessary because of a lack of “shared criteria and coordination processes” with those countries in case of a virus flare-up.

“We cannot and will not risk that Germans become stranded all over the world this summer or that those returning from holiday bring the virus back to Germany,” Maas said in a statement.

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Turkey will be among those hardest hit by the extended travel ban, as the Mediterranean country is Germans' third favourite destination after Spain and Italy.

Thailand and Egypt are also popular holiday spots for Germans during the European summer holiday period.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet however also agreed that exceptions could be made to lift travel warnings on a case-by-case basis, depending on “a positive development in the pandemic” and other criteria such as a country's health system and clear rules on social distancing and mask-wearing.

Likewise, Germany can decide to reimpose travel bans on EU countries that report a spike in Covid-19 cases.

'Freedom of movement is being restored'

In a separate press conference, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer welcomed the end of Germany's border checks with its neighbours from Monday as EU countries gradually return to pre-pandemic, frictionless travel.

“Freedom of movement is being restored in the European Union,” Seehofer said.

European governments are under pressure to reopen their economies and ease lockdown restrictions now that the coronavirus is deemed under control in many countries on the continent.

With the tourism industry particularly badly damaged by the border closures, flight cancellations and hotel shutdowns of the past months, businesses are hoping that a busy summer season will make up for some of the losses.

The first German holidaymakers are already expected to arrive in the Balearic Islands on Monday, as a test before Spain fully reopens its international borders.

Member comments

  1. What happens to so many expats who want to visit their parents or loved ones who are not well in non EU countries. I guess it’s not a concern for government.

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IN IMAGES: Spain’s ‘scrap cathedral’ lives on after creator’s death

For over 60 years, former monk Justo Gallego almost single-handedly built a cathedral out of scrap materials on the outskirts of Madrid. Here is a picture-based ode to his remarkable labour of love.

IN IMAGES: Spain's 'scrap cathedral' lives on after creator's death
File photo taken on August 3, 1999 shows Justo Gallego Martinez, then 73, posing in front of his cathedral. Photo: ERIC CABANIS / AFP

The 96-year-old died over the weekend, but left the unfinished complex in Mejorada del Campo to a charity run by a priest that has vowed to complete his labour of love.

Gallego began the project in 1961 when he was in his mid-30s on land inherited from his family after a bout of tuberculosis forced him to leave an order of Trappist monks.

Today, the “Cathedral of Justo” features a crypt, two cloisters and 12 towers spread over 4,700 square metres (50,600 square feet), although the central dome still does not have a cover.

He used bricks, wood and other material scavenged from old building sites, as well as through donations that began to arrive once the project became better known.

A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A woman prays at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The building’s pillars are made from stacked oil drums while windows have been cobbled and glued together from shards of coloured glass.

“Recycling is fashionable now, but he used it 60 years ago when nobody talked about it,” said Juan Carlos Arroyo, an engineer and architect with engineering firm Calter.

Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid.
Men work at the Cathedral of Justo on November 26, 2021 in Mejorada del Campo, 20km east of Madrid. Photo: (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

The charity that is taking over the project, “Messengers of Peace”, hired the firm to assess the structural soundness of the building, which lacks a permit.

No blueprint

“The structure has withstood significant weather events throughout its construction,” Arroyo told AFP, predicting it will only need some “small surgical interventions”.

Renowned British architect Norman Foster visited the site in 2009 — when he came to Spain to collect a prize — telling Gallego that he should be the one getting the award, Arroyo added.

Religious murals on a walls of Justo's cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Religious murals on a walls of Justo’s cathedral. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The sturdiness of the project is surprising given that Gallego had no formal training as a builder, and he worked without a blueprint.

In interviews, he repeatedly said that the details for the cathedral were “in his head” and “it all comes from above”.

Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Builders work on the dome of the Cathedral of Justo on November 26th. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

The complex stands in a street called Avenida Antoni Gaudi, named after the architect behind Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia basilica which has been under construction since 1883.

But unlike the Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral of Justo Gallego as it is known is not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as a place of worship.

Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral's completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
Visit gaze at the stained glass and busts in of the cathedral’s completed sections. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

‘Worth visiting’

Father Angel Garcia Rodriguez, the maverick priest who heads Messengers of Peace, wants to turn Gallego’s building into an inclusive space for all faiths and one that is used to help the poor.

“There are already too many cathedrals and too many churches, that sometimes lack people,” he said.

“It will not be a typical cathedral, but a social centre where people can come to pray or if they are facing difficulties,” he added.

A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
A photo of Justo Gallego Martinez on display at his cathedral following his passing. (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)
 

Father Angel is famous in Spain for running a restaurant offering meals to the homeless and for running a church in central Madrid where pets are welcome and the faithful can confess via iPad.

Inside the Cathedral of Justo, volunteers continued working on the structure while a steady stream of visitors walked around the grounds admiring the building in the nondescript suburb.

“If the means are put in, especially materials and money, to finish it, then it will be a very beautiful place of worship,” said Ramon Calvo, 74, who was visiting the grounds with friends.

FIND OUT MORE: How to get to Justo’s Cathedral and more amazing images

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