LATEST: Germany to lift travel warning for EU countries from mid-June

Germany plans to lift its blanket travel warning for European nations from June 15th, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, as the continent looks to further ease restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus.

LATEST: Germany to lift travel warning for EU countries from mid-June
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on June 3rd. Photo: DPA

“We have decided today that the travel warning for the named circle of countries will not be continued but replaced by travel advice,” Maas said, referring to EU nations plus a handful of countries in the region including Switzerland and Iceland.

Maas acknowledged that this decision “raises great hopes and expectations”. However, he said: “Travel warnings are not travel bans, and travel advice is not an invitation to travel”.

Maas said the travel advice will make clear if people in Germany should avoid travelling to a country.

“We will provide the best available information on each country in our travel advice,” he said. As of June 15th, the guidelines will be updated daily as needed.

Germany will also be watching contagion data very carefully, he added, saying that warnings could be reintroduced if new infections were to reach 50 per 100,000 people in a week in the country concerned.

READ ALSO: These are the countries where Germany is planning to lift the travel warning

No further repatriation programmes

The travel warning will be lifted for Germany's 26 partner countries in the EU, as well as the UK (which has left the EU but it's currently still the transition period), and the four states of the border-free Schengen area, which are not members of the EU: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

According to Maas, travel to the UK will not be recommended, for example, as long as a 14-day quarantine for people arriving to the country applies there.

Maas said that travel outside of the specified countries is not yet permitted. Germany is to wait for the EU to make a decision on this.

Meanwhile, Maas reiterated that there would be no further recall action for holidaymakers stranded abroad. After the coronavirus outbreak, the German government brought some 240,000 German tourists back to the country in a costly operation.

The Foreign Minister also said in a tweet that the pandemic was “far from over” and that “together we must prevent  tourism from leading to a second wave”.

“It depends on the personal responsibility of each individual,” he added.

READ ALSO: 'We don't know how to get her home': Munich man struggles to bring back wife stranded abroad by coronavirus crisis

On March 17th, Maas took the unprecedented step of issuing a blanket warning against tourist travel worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Until that point, travel warnings were only issued in the event of danger to life, especially in war zones such as Syria or Afghanistan.

READ ALSO: Germany extends worldwide travel tourist warning until mid-June

But with new infections sharply down, the government is looking for ways to get the economy up and running again.

Germany reported just 342 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday June 3rd – down from more than 6,000 a day at the height of new infections in March.

The EU set out plans in May for a phased restart of travel this summer, with EU border controls eventually lifted and measures to minimise the risks of infection, like wearing face masks on shared transport.

Countries opening borders

Some countries have already started reopening their borders in a bid to revive the embattled tourism industry.

Italy reopened to travellers from Europe on Wednesday, and Austria is lifting restrictions in mid-June with Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Other countries, such as Belgium and Britain, are still advising against, or forbidding, all non-essential travel abroad.


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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.”