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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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