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Germany adds three coronavirus-hit Spanish regions to quarantine list

Germany on Friday added three northern Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations, meaning anyone arriving from those areas will have to produce a negative coronavirus test or go into quarantine for 14 days.

Germany adds three coronavirus-hit Spanish regions to quarantine list
People in Germany are being warned not to visit parts of Spain including Barcelona. Photo: DPA

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it had toughened up its warning against travel to the regions of Catalonia, Navarre and Aragon following a spike in Covid-19 cases there.

The move comes after Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control added the three regions to its high-risk list.

“A mandatory quarantine can only be avoided through a negative Covid-19 test,” the ministry said.

The Ministry had on Tuesday already advised against non-essential travel to the three regions but Friday's tightened restrictions underline the growing alarm about returning holidaymakers bringing the virus back with them.

READ ALSO: Germany warns against tourist travel to parts of Spain

The affected regions include the tourist hotspots of Barcelona and the beaches of the Costa Brava.

Germany, itself grappling with a surge in cases, has announced mandatory, free coronavirus tests at airports for anyone entering the country from a high-risk area.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday said he expected the scheme to be up and running next week.

Travellers returning from non-risk areas who wish to get tested will also have free access to tests within 72 hours of arriving back in Germany, he said.

“The rising infection numbers in Germany are a clear warning signal. The virus doesn't take a vacation,” he said.

Germany on Friday reported an additional 870 coronavirus cases, bringing the total so far to 208,698.

Of those, 9,141 people have died from the virus so far.

RKI head Lothar Wieler this week voiced “great concern” over the uptick in cases, which comes as countries across Europe are battling a surge in infections.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's plans for mandatory Covid-19 tests for returning travellers

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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