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Update: Germany extends travel ban on Covid-19 variant countries

Germany has extended a ban on travel from countries deemed high risk due to mutations of coronavirus until March 3rd.

Update: Germany extends travel ban on Covid-19 variant countries
An aircraft at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA

Countries affected by the restrictions include Brazil, South Africa, Britain, Ireland and Portugal.

The entry ban for people travelling from these countries on any form of transport was brought in on January 30th 2021 and was due to expire on Wednesday February 17th.

But Health Minister Spahn sent a cabinet bill to the other members of government on February 15th, asking for quick approval of an extension.

In the document, which was viewed by Spiegel, Spahn said that the restriction on arrivals from affected countries into Germany is “necessary” for another 14 days.

“The recognisable rapid increase in the number of cases” in mutation areas makes extending the measure urgent, Spahn said

The strict rules affect countries where coronavirus mutations, which are said to be more contagious than the previously known forms, are spreading fast.

Along with the countries mentioned above, the regulation also now applies to travel from the Austrian province of Tyrol and the Czech Republic. The full list of areas affected, which is subject to change, can be found here on the Robert Koch Institute's site under “areas of variant of concern'.

For more details on the border controls with Austria and the Czech Republic, check out the story below as well as our Austrian site.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Germany's new border closures

What is the government's aim?

In the draft bill, Spahn wrote that the number of infections in Germany is declining. However, “the hard-won progress of recent weeks” should not be jeopardised by “an unchecked spread of the virus variants in Germany”.

Therefore, a “limitation of the entry through travel movements from virus variant areas is necessary”.

Formally, the regulation is a transport ban, which, for example, prohibits airlines from flying passengers from the risk areas to Germany.

Exceptions currently apply only to German citizens, people with the right of residence in Germany, and transit passengers who are changing planes in the country.

There are also some exceptions for key workers such as health staff.
 
Those entering Germany must present a coronavirus test no older than 48 hours, fill in an online form before and then quarantine for 10 days.

These strict rules are intended to make travel unattractive so that most people avoid it. German authorities have repeatedly urged people not to travel either domestically or abroad unless it is essential.

READ ALSO: These are Germany's latest rules on foreign travel to deal with Covid-19 variants

In air travel, the restrictions have already led to a considerable drop in passenger numbers.

Lufthansa had to cut its flight schedule from Brazil, South Africa or Brazil to a minimum.

Meanwhile, the de facto border closure with Tyrol and the Czech Republic, meanwhile, is causing massive frustration among haulage companies and the many border commuters who can no longer get to work.

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COVID-19 RULES

German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Health ministers in Germany's 16 states say that the requirement to wear face masks on local public transport should remain in place throughout autumn and winter.

German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

As part of Germany’s planned Covid regulations from October onwards, people will have to wear FFP2 masks on long-distance transport, such as trains.

However, states are able to decide themselves on any mask requirements for local buses, trains, and trams. 

On Monday, state health ministers agreed that they were in favour of keeping the mask mandate on public transport across Germany.

According to the health ministry in Saxony-Anhalt, which currently holds the presidency of the Conference of Health Ministers, the aim is to have uniform rules in all states when it comes to masks on transit. 

It comes after some people raised concerns that Germany would see a patchwork of different rules across the states.

As The Local has been reporting, the Bundestag last week passed a set of Covid regulations that will be in place from October 1st until April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

The plan includes some measures that will apply nationwide, while the states can decide on regional requirements depending on the pandemic situation.

Across Germany, FFP2 masks will be mandatory on long-distance trains and buses as well as in health and care settings, such as GP offices. There will no longer be a requirement to wear masks on planes in Germany.

Approval of the legal framework is still needed from the Bundesrat, which represents the states. That is expected to take place on Friday. 

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