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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 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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