‘Everyone was panicking’: Brits stranded in UK fear being unable to return to Germany

Britons stranded in the UK have spoken of their confusion and panic after a travel ban means they are currently unable to get back to their home in Germany.

'Everyone was panicking': Brits stranded in UK fear being unable to return to Germany
A Christmas tree in Cologne Airport. Photo: DPA

Many Brits are now effectively stranded in the UK after Germany issued a transport ban from December 22nd until January 6th.

That decision may be reviewed after the EU recommended ending the blanket ban.

The German Health Ministry said British nationals who “have valid residency permits” are allowed to return to the country from January 1st.

They have to be tested for coronavirus and undertake quarantine, as do others who come from an area classified by Germany as a 'risk zone'.

READ ALSO: Germany extends ban on UK and South Africa arrivals to January 6th

The EU has made it clear that residents in the EU who are stranded in the UK should be allowed to return home.

However, many Brits who travelled to the UK to spend Christmas with their families say they are worried about getting back into the country.

That's because the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st – and most Brits do not have their residency documents yet so may find it more difficult to prove they are German residents.

British and German authorities have previously advised Britons travelling after December 31st to bring with them proof of residency in Germany, such as an Anmeldung registration document or rental contract.

'Really stressful'

Freelance writer Abby Young-Powell travelled to the UK earlier in December and is self-isolating in Wales before visiting family for Christmas.

The 32-year-old helped set up a group so that others in a similar situation could communicate and talk to each other.

She said watching Sunday's events while in quarantine as countries began banning UK flights was an “anxiety inducing moment”.

“It was really, really stressful,” she added.

“Germany was one of the last countries to say something, but I knew it was going that way. I was in tears most of the day.

“I didn't really see anyone talking about it in terms of what it means for residents. It felt really lonely as well. I didn’t sleep at all that night because I was so stressed.”

Young-Powell worried she would be stuck in the UK for months, even though her life is in Berlin. The next day she tried to find more answers and talked to others.

That's when those affected decided to start a messaging group.

“Everyone is in difficult situations,” said Young-Powell. “Everyone was super stressed, everyone was panicking.

“I saw people saying they needed to get back to care for people, people who needed to get back for starting work, people who were saying they needed to get back because they didn’t have accommodation.”

Brexit complication

They have been discussing issues such as how to get coronavirus tests, and on the documents they need to get into Germany. Young-Powell was due to travel back to Berlin on December 28th – before the end of the Brexit transition period.

“From January 1st because of Brexit, we need to prove we are residents,” Young-Powell said.

“I’m now trying to get documents in order. I have my Anmeldung on my phone and I'm seeing what else I can gather.

“Now the next thing is figuring out the way back and figuring out the tests.  I really hope we can all get back okay.”

Berlin resident Rohit Kakar, is also in quarantine before he visits his family in the East Midlands area.

However, the 32-year-old who works for an NGO, said it had been stressful to find out about the new coronavirus strain and travel ban when he arrived in the UK.

“I’m happy I get to spend some time with my family here,” he said. “But I think it’s not knowing what might happen. The fear of what might happen (with the flight ban) and lack of information.”

Kakar has dual British and German citizenship so he can prove he's a German resident. He added that the group had been “really helpful”.

READ ALSO: How to prove you're a resident in Germany


Promised a voucher

Some Brits have been affected by the ban in the other direction.

David Lewis in Frankfurt said he was planning to fly to UK for six days  on December 22nd to visit his mum in UK.

After his flight was cancelled he said he was offered a flight voucher so he was “generally very happy with the response”.

Lewis was also offered a refund on a train ticket in the UK so felt happy with this response, too.

However, he said his mum will “now unfortunately spend Christmas day on her own.

“But sadly there's no other way to travel,” he added.

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.