Germany declares Belgium, most of France and parts of UK coronavirus ‘risk’ zones

More regions have been added to Germany's list of coronavirus unsafe areas, including parts of the UK and France.

Germany declares Belgium, most of France and parts of UK coronavirus 'risk' zones
Passengers travelling from Frankfurt this summer. Photo: DPA

On Wednesday, Germany declared another neighbouring country a coronavirus risk area. And that is by no means all. In fact the number of potential holiday destinations abroad are dwindling. Even the end of the blanket travel warning for 160 countries, slated to be repealed on Thursday, will not change this.

Now the whole of Belgium, Iceland and individual regions in nine other European countries have been classed as risk regions due to rising infection figures.

READ ALSO: 'Life as we know it will return': Merkel makes emotional appeal for more caution during coronavirus crisis

On Wednesday evening, Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control updated its risk list. It now includes:

Wales and Northern Ireland

– In France, the regions of Pays de la Loire and Burgundy (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) have been added. This means that in Germany's largest neighbouring country, only the border region of Grand Est is now not classified as a risk area.

– In Belgium, the capital Brussels was recently listed as a risk area. But now the whole country is classed as a risk zone. That means it particularly affects German border regions in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.

– For the first time, the German government included areas in the two Baltic states of Lithuania (Šiaulių) and Estonia (Idu-Viru) on the risk list. More regions in Ireland (the border region), Slovenia (Koroska), Hungary (Csongrád, Vas and Pest) and Romania (Alba and Cluj) were also added.

For the new risk areas in Europe, the Federal Foreign Office is warning people in Germany against non-essential travel there.

Meanwhile, the blanket travel warning for more than 160 countries outside the EU and the border-free Schengen area is being lifted from October 1st.

This means that each country in the world is now assessed individually. But anyone who thinks that this will make long-distance travel much easier again is mistaken. For holidaymakers, hardly anything will change – countries with high infection rates will remain 'risk zones' according to German authorities.

A list of the regions considered risk areas across Europe and the world can be found on the RKI website, which is updated regularly.


No longer risk regions

But with all the bad news about rising infection rates and new travel warnings, there is also good news: For Fribourg in Switzerland as well as the Croatian holiday destinations Zadar and Sibenik-Knin, the status as high risk areas has been lifted, meaning there is no warning against travelling there.

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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