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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 to repeal last protective measures against Covid-19

Three years after Germany introduced a series of protective measures against the coronavirus, the last are set to be repealed on Friday.

Germany to repeal last protective measures against Covid-19

The remaining restrictions – or the requirement to wear a mask in surgeries, clinics and nursing homes – are falling away a couple of days after German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) made an announcement that the Covid-19 pandemic is “over.”

“We have successfully managed the pandemic in Germany,” said Lauterbach at a press conference on Wednesday.

In light of low infection numbers and virus variants deemed to be less dangerous, Germany has been steadily peeling away the last of its longstanding measures. 

READ ALSO: Germany monitoring new Covid variant closely, says Health Minister

The obligation to wear a mask on public transport was lifted on February 2nd. 

During the height of the pandemic between 2020 and 2021, Germany introduced its strictest measures, which saw the closure of public institutions including schools and daycare centres (Kitas).

“The strategy of coping with the crisis had been successful overall,” said Lauterbach, while also admitting: “I don’t believe that the long school closures were entirely necessary.”

Since the first coronavirus cases in Germany were detected in January 2020, there have been over 38 million reported cases of the virus, and 171,272 people who died from or with the virus, according to the Robert Koch Institute. 

Voluntary measures

In surgeries and clinics, mask rules can remain in place on a voluntary basis – which some facilities said they would consider based on their individual situations. 

“Of course, practices can stipulate a further obligation to wear masks as part of their house rules, and likewise everyone can continue to wear a mask voluntarily,” the head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Andreas Gassen, told DPA.

But Gassen said it was good there would no longer be an “automatic obligation”, and that individuals could take the responsibility of protecting themselves and others into their own hands. 

READ ALSO: Is the pandemic over in Germany?

“Hospitals are used to establishing hygiene measures to protect their patients, even independently of the coronavirus,” the head of the German Hospital Association (DKG), Gerald Gaß, told DPA.

With the end of the last statutory Covid measures, he said, we are entering “a new phase” in dealing with this illness. 

“Hospitals will then decide individually according to the respective situation which measures they will take,” he said, for example based on the ages and illnesses of the patients being treated.

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