‘Treated like animals’: UK passengers held for 15-hours at Hanover Airport

A woman who arrived at Hanover Airport on Sunday evening has told The Local that she and other passengers are considering taking legal action against German authorities after they were held “illegally” overnight at the airport from Sunday to Monday.

'Treated like animals': UK passengers held for 15-hours at Hanover Airport
Passengers are escorted to the arrivals hall at Hannover Airport on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Olivia Xu, who lives in the UK with her German husband and their one-year-old son, says that she and around 60 other passengers were held for around 15 hours after their plane touched down in Hanover on Sunday.

The detainment came despite the plane landing six hours before a travel ban on UK flights came into force. The ban was brought in due to the emergence of a new strain of the coronavirus in south east of England.

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

“We were treated like animals,” Xu says, complaining that the authorities showed little concern for the wellbeing of her baby or the four other young children among the group.

After being held on their plane for two hours without explanation upon arrival, the passengers passed through border controls and underwent compulsory coronavirus tests, but were then surprised to learn that they would have to spend the night in a room at the airport.

She describes how the official message changed from asking people to go into a 10-day quarantine, to telling them they would all have to take a test at the airport, to saying they'd have to wait for their test results at the airport.

Eventually they were all locked in an unheated room next to the airfield.

“Everyone was furious,” Xu says. But their demands for an explanation were consistently ignored.

A cause of particular upset to the passengers was the treatment of the five young children who'd been on the flight.

According to Xu’s account, unprepared local authorities had no baby food or formula milk to hand out, and also failed to provide anything more than a single sachet of formula milk during the entire evening.

“At about midnight they came with some adult milk and we had to explain to them that the babies couldn't drink that.”

READ ALSO: Germany extends ban on UK and South Africa arrivals to January 6th

'Babies crying all night'

Xu said police officers were aggressive and rude, with one threatening to take away some warm water he'd brought in if the families kept complaining; another officer made a rude finger gesture at them when they banged on a window to try and attract his attention.

“The two other babies were crying from around midnight to four in the morning when they eventually fell to sleep,” she recalls.

Xu says that the adults were offered thin paper blankets that were inadequate to warm them in the unheated room, while the children were given dirty blankets.

“They were just making things up as they went along,” she says. “There was absolutely no human touch.”

She also thinks that the 15-hour detainment only made the risk of spreading the new strain of the virus worse, as no hand sanitizer was provided and the travellers were forced to sleep in close proximity in one room.

It was subsequently confirmed that one of the passengers was infected with the virus, but at no point during the night was anyone taken away, Xu says. “I guess that whoever that was was with us the whole time.”

At around 9am the following morning, two hours after her family's test result came through, the travellers were told they could continue on their journeys.

Local authorities in Hanover have since called Xu to ask her to come in for another PCR test, something she believes shows they know she might have been infected with the virus during the detainment.

She has stayed in contact with other people on the plane and they are now considering whether to file a complaint, she says.
The Local contacted Hanover Airport and the border police for comment but they did not respond by the time of publication.

Member comments

  1. I find it hard to believe that people were treated this way; especially children. Germans are incredibly focused on doing the correct thing and would have made sure these passengers were taken care of during this difficult situation. Children are always paramount in this country. It is an airport after all and all amenities are available (or easy/fast access to said amenities). Something seems off about this situation….

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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