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UPDATE: What you need to know about Germany’s UK travel ban

Germany joined a growing number of European countries to suspend travel links with the UK over fears of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus. Here's what it all means for you.

UPDATE: What you need to know about Germany's UK travel ban
Passengers at Frankfurt Airport at the weekend. Photo: DPA

What is going on exactly?

After British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a new coronavirus strain was “out of control” in parts of the UK, European countries struggling to deal with their own virus spread reacted with alarm and began suspending travel to Britain.

German authorities issued an emergency decree to ban travel from the UK to Germany from midnight on Sunday December 20th (Berlin time).

The ban was initially to last until at least December 31st 2020. But German authorities said on Tuesday December 22nd it was to be extended until January 6th. It also includes travel from South Africa.

People with proof of residence in Germany can, however, enter the country from the UK from January 1st. It was introduced due to concerns over the mutation of coronavirus in the UK, and South Africa.

Who does it affect?

Everyone who wants to, or planned to, travel from the UK or South Africa to Germany.  All flights and other travel links are now cancelled. Anyone who planned to travel to Germany by sea or rail will also be affected by similar transport bans imposed by other countries like France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: Travel chaos in Europe – which countries have imposed bans on flights from UK?

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. These are:

  • Repatriation flights of aeroplanes and their crews
  • Postal, freight or empty flights
  • Flights with medical personnel in the interest of public health

OK so what does the decree actually say about why this is happening?

The transport ban covers passenger traffic by train, bus, ship and flights directly from these countries,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

“The order covers the period from December 22nd, 2020 until January 6th, 2021.”

The temporary ban was originally put in place “in order to protect the population of Germany”, the ruling by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure said.

It is needed to “limit the introduction and rapid spread” of new virus strains.

“The global epidemiological situation with regard to the spread of infections with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to develop very dynamically,” said the general decree published late Sunday.

“New viral variants (mutations) have been identified in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Both variants have not yet been detected in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The virus variant in the UK is, according to the British government, up to 70 percent more transmissible and has a 0.4 point higher reproduction rate (R), compared to the previously known variant of SARS-CoV-2, German authorities say.

They say this new virus variant is “spreading rapidly” in the UK. 

“It is already the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in London and in other regions in the east and south-east of the UK. In parallel, a significant increase in the number of cases is being reported in these regions.

“This further increases the burden on local medical facilities.”

German authorities say that they want to avoid this situation in the Bundesrepublik, where they are already grappling with a high number of infections.

What about travelling to the UK from Germany?

There is no mention of travel in the opposite direction in the decree. However, many flights have already been cancelled as airlines anticipate mass cancellations.

Keep in mind that Germany has been advising against travel to the UK for months due to the coronavirus situation in general.

German authorities are also urging people not to travel either within the country or abroad, unless it is essential.

How long will this ban last for?

Initially until January 6th. But German residents and citizens can enter from January 1st. They have to be tested for coronavirus and quarantine.

It could be lifted earlier if Germany follows EU advice to allow people to return home, but so far it has not indicated any plans to do so.

Is it causing disruption?

Yes. Britons who want to come back from the UK to Germany for Christmas are effectively stranded.

READ ALSO: 'Everyone was panicking': Brits stranded in UK fear being unable to return to Germany

There's also been chaos at the borders. Many Brits who flew in on the last flights from the UK to Germany on Sunday were held at airports and had to do a Covid-19 test.

READ ALSO:

What can I do?

More information will likely become available in the coming days. If you would like to share your experience with us email: [email protected]

Other practical things you can do is contact the British Embassy. You could also contact your airline and ask for a refund or ask to be rebooked on a new flight when it's allowed.

Keep an eye on the latest information from authorities. We'll also publish updates as they become available.

What is Germany saying about the new strain?

Top virologist Christian Drosten said he believed the new strain had already spilled over into the country.

“I think it's already in Germany,” Drosten told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday morning. 

“We now know, it is already in Italy, in Holland, in Belgium, in Denmark – even in Australia. Why shouldn't it be in Germany?”

At the same time, the virologist warned against people becoming too alarmed.

Is there anything else to worry about?

Yes, January 1st. This is the date that the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is therefore outside the European Bloc.

British people who want to move to Germany under the Withdrawal Agreement also have a deadline of December 31st to be legal resident in Germany, otherwise they face the considerably more difficult and complicated rules.
 

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COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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