What can we expect from Germany’s new travel ban to deal with Covid-19 variants?

What can we expect from Germany's new travel ban to deal with Covid-19 variants?
A Luftansa plane flying over Frankfurt. Photo: DPA
Germany is to implement new entry bans on countries where Covid-19 variants are widespread. Here's a look at the draft plans.

The German government is preparing to seal off its borders to travellers from the Britain, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa and Brazil.

The emergence of new virus variants in these countries deemed more infectious than the original strain, has fuelled concern at a time when many nations are struggling to rein in the pandemic.

Spiegel reported that the ministries involved have agreed on a new regulation. It is to be reviewed and signed by cabinet members as early as Friday. The new rules could then come into force this weekend.

Here's a look at what the draft plans say. Keep an eye on the Local Germany homepage for developments on this story. 

READ ALSO: Germany plans new travel bans over Covid-19 variants

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What new restrictions does Germany want to adopt?

The draft of the new regulation, which was made available to Spiegel, first imposes a general ban on all flights from so-called virus variant areas.

This means no airline would be allowed to carry passengers from these countries to Germany.

Under the plans, the ban would apply from January 30th to February 17th.

How is the ban justified?

The paper states that “in order to protect the population in Germany and to limit the entry and rapid spread of the new virus variants”, “a temporary restriction on the transport of passengers from countries classified as virus variant areas is necessary”.

What are the exceptions?

German citizens and residents of Germany are explicitly exempt from the draft regulation – they may continue to return to Germany from these countries.

Furthermore, diplomats are exempt, as is cargo traffic plus humanitarian and medical flights.

The exemption means that airlines such as Lufthansa can continue to offer flights from the mutation areas, but they are only allowed to take residents, or those mentioned above, who can present a negative Covid-19 test.

The federal police have already been asking all airlines to strictly control this testing obligation, otherwise penalties may be imposed.

Why does the German government want to restrict travel?

There are major concerns over the new virus variants becoming more widespread in Germany so the government wants to limit flight connections even further from the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Portugal.

So far Germany has seen a handful of cases in which passengers on flights from these places have brought the virus variants with them.

Many countries were slammed a year ago for taking too long to ground travel from China when Covid-19 emerged.

What does the government expect from the new rule?

The new rules are a compromise. Initially, both the Chancellor and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had spoken of reducing air traffic to almost zero. This would only have been possible through a general flight ban, like is currently the case in Israel.

Legal experts in the ministries made it clear, however, that this would probably not be proportionate in view of the pandemic situation in Germany. Moreover, an entry ban for German citizens would have been ruled as unconstitutional.

So the government will be hoping the regulation and the exceptions go far enough.

It is also worth nothing that airlines will probably cancel several connections and fly less frequently because of the significantly lower number of passengers.

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in drastic travel restrictions in fight against travel variants?

Will air traffic be significantly reduced anyway?

Under previous German travel rules, airlines were allowed to carry transit passengers with connections in Germany. But this may no longer be possible under the new rules.

The loss of this clientele is likely to make long-haul connections in particular significantly less lucrative. However, Lufthansa, for example, has already reduced the number of flights from Brazil and South Africa to a minimum.

What does the new rule mean for travel within the EU?

Apart from Portugal, which has strong air links with Brazil and has reported high infection numbers, no EU country is considered a virus variant area.

However, some EU countries, including Germany's direct neighbour the Czech Republic, are classified as high-risk areas because they have a very high incidence of Covid-19.

Here, too, the rule applies that all entrants must show a recent negative Covid-19 test. This has caused chaotic conditions at the borders to Saxony, as many commuters enter Germany through them.

READ ALSO: Anger on Czech border as Germany demands Covid-19 tests

Meanwhile, it's expected that Germany could soon class the Netherlands and Denmark as high risk areas and the test rules would apply there too.

What do airlines say about the new rules?

Airlines have warned against the travel restrictions. They argue that a further reduction in flight offerings would have major disadvantages for supply chains as a lot of cargo is loaded on them, especially on intercontinental flights.

Airline bosses also say that passengers from the affected areas could rebook and fly to neighbouring European countries and then enter Germany by car or train.

“Such a regulation does not work in the Schengen area, unless it applies equally to the whole of Europe,”  a manager of a German airline told Spiegel.

So far the EU has not agreed on blanket travel restrictions.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Germany could not wait for the EU to take a common decision on such a pressing health issue for the population.
 


Member comments

  1. So we cancelled our large uk wedding last July due to covid and opted instead for a small 5 person standesamt wedding (now limited to 2 people). This has now been delayed 4 times due to gvt imposed flight restrictions from uk as my dad (the only person who needs to attend from my side) can’t get here. In the interim my father in law (originally the main reason for still pushing ahead with this small ceremony) has died last week and I am now 15 weeks pregnant with twins and that combined with with brexit make it all the more important for us to proceed. Our wedding registration for which we paid german gvt 300euro expires on 28 Feb but unlike in uk where they are offering registration extensions for free due to covid we have been told that we will have to re register and pay another 300 euro to extend the deadline! Whilst I understand the reasons for reducing travel(albeit my dad is 70 and staying at home alone anyway as my mum passed 2 years ago and he is being careful so he is a very low risk as he practically quarantine full time), aside from the heartbreak of having to repeatedly cancel which has now meant my father in law won’t be there for our wedding, I find it abhorrent that the government would make us pay another 300euro to reregister in a situation where we have been timed out due to a global pandemic and to gvt imposed travel restrictions. It just adds financial hardship and insult to an already awful situation. I wanted to raise this because there are so many unseen impacts on people that could be eased if only german administration were made aware and considered this, just like they have in uk by simply allowing people to extend their registration at no cost.

  2. As it is not an EU-wide restriction, I don’t see that it helps. And people bringing test proofs that are 24 Hrs or 48 Hrs old also do not make sense. The only way is thorough testing on arrival, with people unable to leave the airport until the result comes back, & if it is positive, direct transfer to an isolation Hotel by Ambulance. Anything else just reduces to risk, but does not stop it.

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