UPDATE: When will it be possible to travel to and from Germany again?
Germany is beginning to move out of lockdown but there are still strict measures in place. When will non-essential travel in and out of the country be possible? Here’s what we know so far.
We aim to give you the most up-to-date information but please be aware that the situation is constantly changing. Check the German Foreign Office website for more details.
Germany is taking its first small steps back to life, with many shops reopening and schools set to return in the coming weeks, albeit with strict social distancing and hygiene rules.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said measures, including the ban on gatherings of more than two in public and the 1.5 metres distance from others, will stay in place until at least May 3rd.
For many international residents in Germany, the question of when they will see loved ones in other countries again is at the forefront of their minds, but things are far from clear on the travel front.
Here's what we know so far.
What's the situation on travel in Germany right now?
The ban on movement is in place until May 3rd. That means people in Germany are not allowed to travel (unless there's a valid reason to do so, such as for essential work). Visits to and from relatives are not allowed – as well as day trips.
Germany issued a worldwide travel warning in March advising against non-essential travel abroad, particularly against travel for tourism purposes. The current warning was on April 29th extended until June 14th.
We have not yet reached the point where we can recommend carefree travel," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, adding "therefore it is necessary to extend the worldwide travel warning until mid-June".
Formally, the German government cannot prevent travel abroad with this warning. However, almost all travel operators follow the guidelines issued by the Foreign Office.
We don't yet know what will happen with international travel after this date.
Germany's neighbour France has already been discussing travel.
On Thursday April 23rd, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that after lockdown ends there on May 11th, travel from one part of France to another will be allowed.
What else do we know right know?
Entry into Germany for purposes of tourism is strictly prohibited. Non-German citizens attempting to enter the country for "any non-essential travel may be refused entry," according to the Interior Ministry.
Furthermore, hotels, guesthouses, youth hostels and camping sites are not open for tourists, and there’s no indication of when this will change.
There are border restrictions in place across the EU and the world as countries desperately try to contain the coronavirus spread.
Germany joined the rest of the EU in mid-March in restricting all non-essential travel from outside the Schengen Zone, although the UK is exempt from this. That's in place until May 15th and may be extended.
And those returning to Germany must spend their first two weeks in mandatory self-quarantine.
Germany has been running a major repatriation operation to bring home its citizens and residents stranded abroad.
More than 240,00 German nationals have been brought back from abroad as borders across the world have closed due to the pandemic.
Maas ruled out taking this action again this summer.
With virtually no custom, most airlines have opted to ground the vast majority of their fleet. People who have already booked summer travel should contact their airline – many are now providing refunds or future credit, even if a flight has not yet been cancelled.
What's the outlook?
It's really difficult to say at this stage.
This year's summer will be very different compared to previous years because of the coronavirus crisis, Foreign Minister Maas said recently.
"There will not be a normal holiday season this summer with full beach bars and full mountain huts," he said. "That would be irresponsible."
Even if the situation improves in Germany, there are factors that are not within the country's control.
For holidays abroad to resume, other countries' borders would have to be reopened and international air traffic would have to get back on track.
Maas did not rule out the possibility that borders could reopen to tourists before summer, and that holiday travel would become possible with certain restrictions.
However, this was difficult to predict at this stage, he said. At the moment there are still restrictions on freedom of movement in many countries. "These are not conditions with which you can even have a relaxing holiday," he said.
Maas spoke out in favour of a European-wide vote on how to proceed.
Baskets on the beach in Warnemünde, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: DPA
'Wait before making holiday plans'
The consensus is to wait and see.
“I’d advise everyone to wait before making holiday plans,” Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president said in a recent interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “At the moment, no one can make reliable forecasts for July and August.”
The Federal Government Commissioner for Tourism, Thomas Bareiß, also said there was no way to guess what the situation would be like in July or August.
The eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is the first German state to start school holidays on June 22nd. And the last state to begin the summer break is Baden-Württemberg. Pupils go on holiday there starting on July 30th.
What about travel in Germany and neighbouring countries?
If Germany partially lifts its restrictions and allows people to travel in the country (and opens up hotels and the catering trade) then it's possible to plan a vacation in the country.
That is the hope for states which rely heavily on tourism, such as Bavaria in the south and Schleswig-Holstein in the north.
"We have hopes that tourism will pick up again in the second half of the year," said Bavaria's tourism board recently.
If neighbouring countries like Austria open borders then it would be possible to travel there.
However, special measures would have to be in place to ensure distance between people travelling and guests in overnight accommodation.
Whatever happens, there will likely be no large group holidays for some time.
Virologist Melanie Brinkmann of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, said these kinds of holidays would likely only go ahead when there is a vaccine.