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Update: Germany extends travel ban on Covid-19 variant countries

Germany has extended a ban on travel from countries deemed high risk due to mutations of coronavirus until March 3rd.

Update: Germany extends travel ban on Covid-19 variant countries
An aircraft at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA

Countries affected by the restrictions include Brazil, South Africa, Britain, Ireland and Portugal.

The entry ban for people travelling from these countries on any form of transport was brought in on January 30th 2021 and was due to expire on Wednesday February 17th.

But Health Minister Spahn sent a cabinet bill to the other members of government on February 15th, asking for quick approval of an extension.

In the document, which was viewed by Spiegel, Spahn said that the restriction on arrivals from affected countries into Germany is “necessary” for another 14 days.

“The recognisable rapid increase in the number of cases” in mutation areas makes extending the measure urgent, Spahn said

The strict rules affect countries where coronavirus mutations, which are said to be more contagious than the previously known forms, are spreading fast.

Along with the countries mentioned above, the regulation also now applies to travel from the Austrian province of Tyrol and the Czech Republic. The full list of areas affected, which is subject to change, can be found here on the Robert Koch Institute's site under “areas of variant of concern'.

For more details on the border controls with Austria and the Czech Republic, check out the story below as well as our Austrian site.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Germany's new border closures

What is the government's aim?

In the draft bill, Spahn wrote that the number of infections in Germany is declining. However, “the hard-won progress of recent weeks” should not be jeopardised by “an unchecked spread of the virus variants in Germany”.

Therefore, a “limitation of the entry through travel movements from virus variant areas is necessary”.

Formally, the regulation is a transport ban, which, for example, prohibits airlines from flying passengers from the risk areas to Germany.

Exceptions currently apply only to German citizens, people with the right of residence in Germany, and transit passengers who are changing planes in the country.

There are also some exceptions for key workers such as health staff.
 
Those entering Germany must present a coronavirus test no older than 48 hours, fill in an online form before and then quarantine for 10 days.

These strict rules are intended to make travel unattractive so that most people avoid it. German authorities have repeatedly urged people not to travel either domestically or abroad unless it is essential.

READ ALSO: These are Germany's latest rules on foreign travel to deal with Covid-19 variants

In air travel, the restrictions have already led to a considerable drop in passenger numbers.

Lufthansa had to cut its flight schedule from Brazil, South Africa or Brazil to a minimum.

Meanwhile, the de facto border closure with Tyrol and the Czech Republic, meanwhile, is causing massive frustration among haulage companies and the many border commuters who can no longer get to work.

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COVID-19

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”

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