Germany bans travel from high risk Covid-19 variant countries from Saturday

Travel to Germany from countries deemed high risk due to mutations of coronavirus will be almost completely banned from Saturday.

Germany bans travel from high risk Covid-19 variant countries from Saturday
Photo: DPA

Countries affected by the new restrictions include Brazil, South Africa, Britain, Ireland and Portugal, the Interior Ministry said.

The entry ban for people travelling from these countries on any form of transport is to be in force from January 30th to February 17th.

As of Sunday, the small African states of Lesotho and Estwani will also be affected, reported Welt.

German citizens and foreign residents who live in Germany are exempt from the ban, as are freight workers and diplomats, Spiegel reported.

Flights are also permitted for emergencies (such as medical) as well as for members of aircraft, ships and crews.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Germany's new travel ban to deal with Covid-19 variants?

The German government says the drastic step is needed due to the danger posed by mutated virus variants.

“The dynamics of the spread of the variants is particularly worrying in these states,” says the decree.

“The UK government estimates that the variant is 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.”

Federal police are responsible for monitoring the regulation, says the government.

The Local previously previewed the draft rules, which were put together on Thursday afternoon.

There were long negotiations on Friday. Under the final decision, transit passengers passing through Germany to another destination are also exempt from the ban.

According to Spiegel, Lufthansa pushed for this exemption so that passengers can continue their journey via the hubs at Frankfurt and Munich airports.

Travel very restricted already

The German government has already made entry to the country more difficult in recent weeks and months.

Around 160 of the almost 200 countries worldwide are now classified in one of the coronavirus risk categories.

For the lowest category, testing is mandatory 48 hours after entry at the latest and quarantine is mandatory for 10 days, from which you can be released after five days by a second negative test.

For about 40 countries in the two higher categories – including the mutation areas – the rules were tightened last week. When entering from these countries, you have to present a negative test already upon entry, which has led to queues and traffic jams at the German-Czech border.

However, the new ban adds another layer to the restrictions.

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German Health Minister planning new mask rules for autumn

Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is already making plans to combat a potential new wave of Covid infections in the autumn.

German Health Minister planning new mask rules for autumn

Speaking on Germany’s ZDF channel on Wednesday, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that he wants to make it possible to reintroduce compulsory indoor mask-wearing in the autumn.

Under the current Infection Protection Act, only so-called ‘basic protection’ applies – with mask-wearing mandatory only on public transport and in stations, on flights to and from Germany, in hospitals and medical practices, and care facilities.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

But Lauterbach said that the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd, is now being worked on again.

“The question will have to be discussed again, for example, whether wearing masks indoors will become mandatory…I think it is absolutely necessary that we open up this possibility for the autumn,” he said.

Lauterbach’s comments follow a meeting of state health ministers last week, in which they warned that new Covid-19 variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter and that tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

READ ALSO: Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach also warned that the higher-risk Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the Federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the Covid-19 pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Chairwoman of the conference of health ministers, Petra Grimm-Benne said.

In the ZDF programme on Wednesday, Lauterbach also defended government plans to procure additional Covid vaccines. He said they now have vaccines for three different Covid strains ready for the autumn.

“I don’t know what’s coming,” he said, but, when a dangerous wave comes, he said, everyone wants the best vaccine. “So I’d rather be criticized for throwing it away later.”