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UPDATE: What you need to know about Germany’s UK travel ban

Germany joined a growing number of European countries to suspend travel links with the UK over fears of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus. Here's what it all means for you.

UPDATE: What you need to know about Germany's UK travel ban
Passengers at Frankfurt Airport at the weekend. Photo: DPA

What is going on exactly?

After British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a new coronavirus strain was “out of control” in parts of the UK, European countries struggling to deal with their own virus spread reacted with alarm and began suspending travel to Britain.

German authorities issued an emergency decree to ban travel from the UK to Germany from midnight on Sunday December 20th (Berlin time).

The ban was initially to last until at least December 31st 2020. But German authorities said on Tuesday December 22nd it was to be extended until January 6th. It also includes travel from South Africa.

People with proof of residence in Germany can, however, enter the country from the UK from January 1st. It was introduced due to concerns over the mutation of coronavirus in the UK, and South Africa.

Who does it affect?

Everyone who wants to, or planned to, travel from the UK or South Africa to Germany.  All flights and other travel links are now cancelled. Anyone who planned to travel to Germany by sea or rail will also be affected by similar transport bans imposed by other countries like France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: Travel chaos in Europe – which countries have imposed bans on flights from UK?

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. These are:

  • Repatriation flights of aeroplanes and their crews
  • Postal, freight or empty flights
  • Flights with medical personnel in the interest of public health

OK so what does the decree actually say about why this is happening?

The transport ban covers passenger traffic by train, bus, ship and flights directly from these countries,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

“The order covers the period from December 22nd, 2020 until January 6th, 2021.”

The temporary ban was originally put in place “in order to protect the population of Germany”, the ruling by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure said.

It is needed to “limit the introduction and rapid spread” of new virus strains.

“The global epidemiological situation with regard to the spread of infections with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to develop very dynamically,” said the general decree published late Sunday.

“New viral variants (mutations) have been identified in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Both variants have not yet been detected in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The virus variant in the UK is, according to the British government, up to 70 percent more transmissible and has a 0.4 point higher reproduction rate (R), compared to the previously known variant of SARS-CoV-2, German authorities say.

They say this new virus variant is “spreading rapidly” in the UK. 

“It is already the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in London and in other regions in the east and south-east of the UK. In parallel, a significant increase in the number of cases is being reported in these regions.

“This further increases the burden on local medical facilities.”

German authorities say that they want to avoid this situation in the Bundesrepublik, where they are already grappling with a high number of infections.

What about travelling to the UK from Germany?

There is no mention of travel in the opposite direction in the decree. However, many flights have already been cancelled as airlines anticipate mass cancellations.

Keep in mind that Germany has been advising against travel to the UK for months due to the coronavirus situation in general.

German authorities are also urging people not to travel either within the country or abroad, unless it is essential.

How long will this ban last for?

Initially until January 6th. But German residents and citizens can enter from January 1st. They have to be tested for coronavirus and quarantine.

It could be lifted earlier if Germany follows EU advice to allow people to return home, but so far it has not indicated any plans to do so.

Is it causing disruption?

Yes. Britons who want to come back from the UK to Germany for Christmas are effectively stranded.

READ ALSO: 'Everyone was panicking': Brits stranded in UK fear being unable to return to Germany

There's also been chaos at the borders. Many Brits who flew in on the last flights from the UK to Germany on Sunday were held at airports and had to do a Covid-19 test.

READ ALSO:

What can I do?

More information will likely become available in the coming days. If you would like to share your experience with us email: [email protected]

Other practical things you can do is contact the British Embassy. You could also contact your airline and ask for a refund or ask to be rebooked on a new flight when it's allowed.

Keep an eye on the latest information from authorities. We'll also publish updates as they become available.

What is Germany saying about the new strain?

Top virologist Christian Drosten said he believed the new strain had already spilled over into the country.

“I think it's already in Germany,” Drosten told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday morning. 

“We now know, it is already in Italy, in Holland, in Belgium, in Denmark – even in Australia. Why shouldn't it be in Germany?”

At the same time, the virologist warned against people becoming too alarmed.

Is there anything else to worry about?

Yes, January 1st. This is the date that the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is therefore outside the European Bloc.

British people who want to move to Germany under the Withdrawal Agreement also have a deadline of December 31st to be legal resident in Germany, otherwise they face the considerably more difficult and complicated rules.
 

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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