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HEALTH

Germany extends travel warning for more than 160 countries

The German government has extended the travel warning for tourists for more than 160 countries outside the EU by two weeks until September 14th.

Germany extends travel warning for more than 160 countries
An Eurowings flight landing in Mallorca on August 18th. Photo: DPA

The decision was made on Wednesday at a cabinet meeting, DPA learned from government insiders.

On March 17th, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued a warning against tourist travel for more than 200 countries around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, however, Germany lifted the ban for all EU countries, the border control-free Schengen area as well as the UK, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City. Later, parts of Turkey joined the list.

However, warnings are issued for these countries or particular regions if the coronavirus situation changes.

Germany is also currently allowing incoming travellers from 11 non-EU countries with low-infection rates, including New Zealand and Australia.

READ ALSO: Who is allowed to travel to Germany from outside the EU?

Government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said the decision to extend the advisory against “tourism trips” to so-called third countries — those outside the EU and the no-passport Schengen zone — had been taken in the face of rising infection numbers in Germany attributed to travellers.

The current warning had been set to run out on August 31st but a foreign ministry spokeswoman said that the “very dynamic development” of the pandemic required continued vigilance.

“We are seeing that many countries' infection numbers are continuing to rise or rising again,” she said.

“We are also seeing that the rising number of infections (in Germany) often has to do with people returning from abroad and bringing the infection with them.”

A travel warning is not a ban, but is intended to deter people from non-essential travel.

The travel warning is issued regardless of the Robert Koch Institute’s classification of countries as risk areas. Anyone returning to Germany from a risk area must be tested for the coronavirus

Several holiday destinations popular with Germans, such as Egypt and Tunisia, have recently called for the travel warning to be lifted.

Germany has fared better than many of its European neighbours during the pandemic but infection rates have risen this month to levels not seen since April.

Germany on Wednesday reported 236,429 COVID-19 infections, up 1,576 on the previous day, with a total of 9,280 deaths.

READ ALSO: 'Insane adventure': What it's like travelling to Germany from abroad in coronavirus times

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COVID-19 RULES

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”

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