Coronavirus: Should you cancel your trip to (or from) Germany?

Coronavirus: Should you cancel your trip to (or from) Germany?
A plane flying over Munich. Photo: DPA
As the number of confirmed cases continues to rise, some may be wondering about cancelling travel trips to and from Germany - but do you really need to change your plans?

We are updating this story on a regular basis. For the latest on coronavirus in Germany click here.

When we asked our readers about their questions and concerns over coronavirus, one of the biggest worries was among people who have trips to Germany planned – or are travelling within or from Germany.

We look at the current situation and how that affects people with trips planned – or those thinking of travelling to or from Germany in future.

What are the latest developments?

The situation is changing rapidly. But as of Tuesday morning, more than 1,220 people were confirmed to have contracted coronavirus in Germany. A total of 18 people have recovered and there have been two reports of deaths.

When it comes to travel, there are some restrictions in place.

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See also on The Local:

 
He said people should refrain from unnecessary travel to Italy, and also parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, in the west of Germany. The worst hit part of NRW is the district of Heinsberg, which has about 250,000 residents.
 
On Thursday March 5th, Israel announced a ban on Germans – and other countries heavily affected by the virus – entering the country.

Germany's Foreign Office said on its website that the spread of COVID-19 “is leading to increased entry controls, and health checks” in many places and “entry bans, as is the case in Israel”.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

Tourists from Taiwan wearing face masks near Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

“Entry from Germany, France, Austria, Spain and Switzerland (as previously from countries particularly affected by COVID-19) will no longer be possible for non-Israeli citizens after March 6th, 2020 (8:00am),” said the Foreign Office.

“German citizens, like Israeli citizens, can only enter Israel from these countries in exceptional circumstances if they are placed in a 14-day home quarantine.”

Germans who've entered Israel before March 6th are allowed to continue their stay, but should pay special attention to hygiene rules and contact the emergency number 101 immediately in case of symptoms of illness and stay away from crowds of people, authorities say.

Anyone planning to travel to Israel is advised to contact their airline as soon as possible.

German Ambassador to Israel Susanne Wasum-Rainer said that the Embassy was aware of Israel's decision to prevent entries from Germany.

“In light of the manifold Germany-Israel connections including traveling delegations, we hope that the measures only will need to be of temporary nature,” she said on Twitter. 

There are also restrictions for people arriving in Germany from the worse-hit regions.

Germany's Health Ministry says: “Travellers from all of China (including the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao) have been required to fill in landing cards giving information on their flight and stating where they will be staying for the 30 days following landing, as well as where they stayed in China, people they were in contact with and their current health status.

“Airlines will distribute the landing cards and transmit the completed cards to the public health offices for safekeeping.

“Airlines are also required to distribute a multilingual information brochure on board flights. With these orders, the Federal Ministry of Health is complying with the recommendations of the EU Council of Health Ministers.”

Airports in Germany have information on coronavirus. Photo: DPA

Visit the Foreign Office site to check out the latest information on travelling to countries from Germany.

Can I cancel my flight to Germany?

The airline industry has been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, with many flights cancelled or changed. The best advice is to check with your airline operator before flying to see if there are any changes.

British airline Flybe announced late on Wednesday it had entered into administration and all flights had been grounded due to the impact of the outbreak.The airline flies to and from destinations including Düsseldorf, Berlin, Hanover and Stuttgart.

German airline giant Lufthansa, which has a recruitment freeze due to the impact of the virus, said on Thursday it would ground 50 percent of its flights worldwide, many of them inter-European flights.

Lufthansa is also offering refunds for some booked flights to affected areas within Germany and Europe. If you are concerned, contact the airline to see if this applies to you.

It came after the airline announced a slimmed-down timetable over the effects of the novel coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Lufthansa to ground 20 percent of planes due to coronavirus

Lufthansa has also cancelled flights to mainland China until April 24th, 2020. This affects flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao. For affected passengers to these destinations, Lufthansa is offering free rebooking or refund. Flights to Hong Kong will be reduced in March and April.

Lufthansa says: “We therefore ask you to always check the status of your flight and the current travel and entry restrictions of your final or transit destination before you start your journey.

“These might be subject to change on short notice. If you are unable to start your journey due to changed travel and/or entry restrictions in the context of the coronavirus, Lufthansa Group also offers free rebooking or refund.”

Meanwhile, British Airways and Ryanair have cancelled hundreds of flights to European countries including Germany, amid a drop in travel demand owing to coronavirus.

British Airways (BA) is cancelling more than 200 flights from March 16th to 28th.

Those affected include routes departing from London for New York, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

BA customers will be offered an alternative flight for a later date or a full refund.

The operator has also announced that customers booking travel over the next two weeks (until March 16th) will have the option to delay their trip.

Ryanair has said it will cut a quarter of its planned flights in and out of Italy. This will last from March 17th to April 8th. Ryanair customers are able to rebook or reroute their flights or apply for a refund.

READ ALSO: Map: The parts of Germany most affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Easyjet is also cancelling a number of flights, mainly to and from Italy, between March 13th and 31st. Customers are either being moved onto flights operating on the same day or being offered a full refund.

Other operators, such as KLM, are offering rebooking options for some flights. Check with your air carrier for the most up-to-date information.

Is Germany going to put areas on lockdown?

Sealing off entire towns or villages if they become affected by the virus “would be a last resort”, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has said.

Instead, at this stage Germany is monitoring the situation closely. Health Minister Jens Spahn said efforts remained focussed on containing the disease and slowing its spread, including through quarantining people ill with COVID-19 and cancelling large gatherings such as trade fairs.

“The next days and weeks will be challenging,” said Spahn. “There will be restrictions on everyday life in affected areas and that can cause some stress.”

Cologne Cathedral is a popular tourist attrraction. Photo: DPA

Spahn warned, however, that the worse was yet to come and described the outbreak as a “global pandemic”.

He said health workers would focus on “the most acute” cases if the outbreak worsens, meaning planned, non-urgent surgeries could be postponed.

What about other travel?

It's largely unaffected at this stage. So far, rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) says there is no reason to change timetables.

“At the present time, there are no restrictions whatsoever for rail customers,” the website says. The company has, however, “prepared comprehensively for the threat of COVID-19 spreading in Germany”, reported Spiegel.

On-board staff have been trained in dealing with sick passengers, and to provide medical care in an emergency.

Can I cancel my train ticket free of charge over coronavirus fears?

Passengers will likely not receive a refund if they are worried about travelling in Germany.

But there are goodwill arrangements for journeys to areas in Italy affected by the coronavirus. Anyone who does not wish to travel there can cancel their trip free of charge.

“The same applies with immediate effect to passengers with a DB long distance ticket for whom the actual reason for travel is no longer applicable due to the coronavirus,” says DB.

This could be due to the official cancellation of a trade fair, concert, sporting event or similar. The free refund also applies if a booked hotel is quarantined at the destination.

Customers should contact DB's sales outlets and customer service channels for more information.

How has the situation unfolded in Germany?

Germany’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed on January 27th. The 33-year-old man, an employee of car parts supplier Webasto, contracted the virus from a visiting Chinese colleague in the first of human-to-human transmission on European soil. 

The numbers remained fairly low but a more serious outbreak in Italy has gradually spread to neighbouring countries in Europe. 

In recent days the number of cases have risen sharply in Germany. There are now more than 550 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in all of Germany's 16 states except for the eastern Saxony-Anhalt. 

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Five key questions about the coronavirus answered

The majority of cases are in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

You can find the latest information on the situation in Germany here.

Photo: DPA

How has this affected daily life?

Large events, such as the Leipzig Book Fair and ITB Travel Fair, have been cancelled.

Many employers have urged their employees to work from home if they have been to a region deemed high risk. 

Authorities have also urged people to avoid shaking hands. Here are some other measures people in Germany should take:

  • Wash hands thoroughly, especially after coughing and sneezing or before eating. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, especially with unwashed hands.

  •  Cover your nose and mouth with your elbow when coughing or sneezing.   

  • Use disposable tissues and throw them away after use

  •  Clean off surfaces with alcohol- or chlorine-based disinfectants.

There have been some closures, such as schools and kindergartens, in affected areas. But in most places life is continuing as normal.

How dangerous is the virus?

This is a new virus, so at this stage there are a lot of uncertainties about it, and there is still no vaccine or confirmed cure.

However the World Health Organisation is currently putting the death toll at about 3.5 percent – higher than for seasonal flu but still not very high.

So far in Europe the majority of the people who have died have been elderly or had underlying health issues.

The tourism industry in Germany is already being hit by the coronavirus outbreak as less people travel. Even the world's largest travel industry gathering, the International Tourism Fair (ITB) in Berlin, which was due to be held this week, was cancelled.

Readers and members of staff at The Local have also reported fewer people in tourist areas, such as on train services to ski resorts in the Bavaria region.

Although on the whole everything is continuing as normal.

If you do decide to come, however, you'll be welcomed. Just keep an eye on the advice in your country to see if the situation changes.


Member comments

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  1. I had booked flights from Adelaide (South Australia) in August for a holiday in Germany. However, my outbound flight has already been cancelled and flights won’t leave here until September at the earliest. That’s OK because I will just reschedule everything and everyone is willing to assist. I’m not sure about Deutsche Bahn, though. It doesn’t look as if my trip from Ingolstadt to Berlin will be refunded or DB will give me a voucher for travel at a later date. Still, I’m looking forward to my trip … whenever it happens.

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