German national Sabrina Dinkler-Stemme said she was treated like a “criminal” as she stepped off a flight from Britain and found herself blocked at Hanover airport.
“I was completely encircled by the police. I was outside in the rain. We could not move because we were blocked with another 70 passengers,” she recounted of her ordeal on Sunday evening.
Dinkler-Stemme had been on one of the last flights from Britain to arrive in Germany before a temporary ban kicked in from midnight stopping arrivals from the United Kingdom after a new strain of coronavirus was detected there.
“There was no information given to us except a police officer who told me: 'it's your fault, you knew and you still took the flight',” said Dinkler-Stemme.
Countries around the world – including Germany, France and Italy – have begun banning flights and travellers from the UK after a new strain of coronavirus was detected there.
British travellers still arriving in Germany on Sunday were prevented from leaving the airport, with health officials and nurses – some dressed in hazmat suits – administering immediate Covid-19 tests.
There was confusion and panic among travellers as it was unclear if people would be sent back to the UK.
This Twitter thread by journalist Tom Nuttall gives an idea of what happened at Berlin's BER Airport. Nuttall wrote that German citizens from the flight were allowed to enter Berlin on Sunday, but non-Germans were held at the airport and had to wait for a coronavirus test.
Nuttall said those with a negative result were told they would not be sent back. Passengers with residential addresses in Berlin, including Nuttall, were allowed to leave the airport after some delay, he said.
Just landed at Berlin airport on last flight from UK. Federal police triaging between German citizens and the rest of us. Curious to see what happens next as we're held at passport control.
— Tom Nuttall (@tom_nuttall) December 20, 2020
'Please help us leave!'
These measures hit a total of 63 people arriving in Hanover from Britain, who were kept overnight in the airport and were not allowed to leave until they received a negative test result, expected Monday.
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In the meantime, the terminal's officials set up campbeds and cots for babies to help passengers spend the night.
Among the detained travellers, the atmosphere was tense.
“We are at Hanover airport and we are held against our will, we were tested and were prohibited from leaving the premises while awaiting the results,” said Manuela Thomys, in a video shared online by German daily Bild.
Groups of people including a nine-month-old baby can be seen in the clip. “Please help us leave!” Thomys says.
Hilferuf aus dem Flughafen von Hannover – „Wir werden gegen unseren Willen festgehalten!“ https://t.co/XZR0qiYOc5
— BILD (@BILD) December 20, 2020
Local authorities have apologised for the inconvenience caused ahead of Christmas.
“Our aim is to prevent the new variant of the virus from entering the region,” Hanover health official Andreas Kranz explained to German news wire DPA.
The passengers were finally allowed to leave on Monday morning as results came in, with one person testing positive, the city of Hanover said in a statement.
Further tests will be carried out to see if the positive test is of the new mutant strain.
The affected passenger and others who were with the individual were taken to their residence where they are to be quarantined, the city added.
157 people blocked at Frankfurt
Similar scenes were unfolding in other German airports, including Frankfurt where 157 people arriving from Britain and South Africa – where the mutant strain of the virus has also been detected – are blocked.
“We took care of them by distributing camp beds, drinks and food,” said Christian Engel, a spokesman at the airport.
Around half of the group have been tested and are awaiting their results while tests are ongoing for the remaining passengers, said police.
The last UK passengers arriving in Germany last night have been locked in airports. In Hanover, 63 passengers spent the night on camping beds inside the terminal. Negative test results = release. Source: @welt pic.twitter.com/PBlzpZtlBS
— Trent Murray (@trent_murray) December 21, 2020
A red cross van at Hanover Airport. Photo: DPA
In Stuttgart, UK passengers were taken to the airport's test centre. Those who received a negative test were allowed to leave but still have to quarantine at home.
However in total, Bild said on Monday lunchtime that 10 people on flights from the UK to German airports had tested positive for coronavirus so far.
Germany struggling with rising cases
Germany reported a record in daily new infections on Thursday, surpassing the 30,000 mark for the first time, and has recorded a total of 24,125 deaths.
Scientists first discovered the new strain of the virus – which they believe is 70 percent more transmissible – in a patient in September.
But alarm bells were set ringing across Europe last week as the strain appeared to be raging in parts of Britain.
Europe last week became the first region in the world to pass 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began a year ago.
A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization told AFP that “across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches.”