Coronavirus: Hard-hit German firms call on government to ease travel restrictions

From tourism to trade fairs – the pandemic has hit some industries particularly hard in Germany. Now firms have asked the government to ease travel rules.

Coronavirus: Hard-hit German firms call on government to ease travel restrictions
Photo: DPA

Over 160 countries outside the EU are currently considered ‘high risk’ by Germany. As a result, authorities have issued warnings against non-essential travel to them.

However, this has fuelled growing concerns for organisations and businesses affected by the restrictions.

Now a group of various associations, including the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and the Federation of German Wholesale and Foreign Trade (BGA), have teamed up to ask the government to change its course of action on rules on foreign travel.

If restrictions are further extended, there would be detrimental economic effects that would transcend far beyond tourism, according to the collaborative report.

The group said a  “proportionate” strategy must be found. 

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

International trade and the exchange of goods as well as investment activity will be severely affected by the restrictions.

Companies focused on export, for example, are currently often unable to send out staff to their foreign clients or suppliers due to the many border closings and quarantine measures.

On top of this, the cancellation of international trade fairs has meant an absence of new orders.

The German government recently extended its travel restrictions for over 160 countries outside of the EU until  September 14th. This Wednesday could see the cabinet make a decision regarding next steps.

READ ALSO: Germany extends travel warning for over 160 countries

'Major impact'

The report by the various associations states that firms acknowledge that travel restrictions are instrumental in containing the pandemic. However, it also notes that “travel restrictions carry the risk of having a major impact on economic activities such as trade and investment”. 

The associations are calling for an economic impact assessment to be part of future considerations by the Foreign Office when travel warnings are decided. In future, they believe, the Economy Ministry should play a part in deciding travel rules.

In terms of global travel restrictions, the varying situations in different countries would have to be taken into account.

According to the document, the negative impact of travel restrictions would leave many companies in a fragile state: “In contrast to the beginning of the pandemic, the liquidity and capital reserves have now been depleted in many ways,” the report said.

The threat of bankruptcy is widespread, it added.

The associations believe it is important to search for solutions that support both public health and the economy.

“For example, many companies are pinning their hopes on rapid tests that could at least reduce travel restrictions and quarantine periods,” said the report. “In order to minimise the risk for vacationers and business travellers as well as for the general public, sufficient test capacities should be made available for travel returnees from risk areas.”

Translation by Stephanie Nourse



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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.