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When will Germany relax restrictions on international and domestic travel?

When will Germany relax restrictions on international and domestic travel?
People at the beach in Mallorca on April 2nd 2021. Photo: DPA
After EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said fully vaccinated Americans would in future be allowed to travel to Europe, we looked at what the situation might be for travel to, from and within Germany in the coming months.

What are the rules right now?

Germany recently tightened measures across the country to battle a third wave of Covid-19. In areas where there are more than 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, restrictions including curfews and tighter contact rules are in place.

Across Germany there is no ban on travel. However, as has been the case since November last year, non-essential travel is strongly discouraged.

Are there any plans to ease the testing and quarantine rules on foreign travel?

If you are considering travelling at the moment, you have to be aware of the strict rules on testing and quarantine on your return to Germany – and also for the country you are going to.

These restrictions are aimed at discouraging people from travel as well as keeping the spread of Covid-19 and variants under control.

Virus variants that have been cropping up are causing more headaches for global travel. Germany currently bans travel (with some exceptions) from several countries which are listed as “virus variant areas” including India.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about the latest rules on travel to and from Germany

From March 30th 2021, new testing rules came into force in Germany.

They prescribe that everyone arriving in the country by plane, regardless of the risk status of the place they are travelling from, has to present a negative coronavirus test certificate no older than 48 hours before boarding.

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This testing obligation came into place for all travellers over concerns that German tourists were controversially flocking to Mallorca over the Easter holidays after the Spanish island was removed as a “risk” country by German authorities.

Before, only passengers coming from RKI-designated “high-risk” coronavirus areas or “areas of variant concern” were required to show a negative test upon arrival in Germany.

READ ALSO: ‘I really needed a break’: Pandemic-weary Germans find ‘freedom’ on Mallorca

This obligation for everyone to show a negative test before flying to Germany applies up to and including May 12th. However, it could be extended.

Will you be able to travel if you’re vaccinated or tested against Covid?

This looks likely. At the EU-wide level, the European Parliament is debating vaccine passports on Wednesday April 28th.

Last month the head of the European Commission vaccines task force, Thierry Breton, unveiled the first European “health passport”, claiming he hopes Europe will have a summer season “comparable to last year”. 
 
The provisional plans for the health passport include an option to show either a vaccination certificate or a recent Covid test. If the plan goes ahead it will be available “within two to three months” in both digital and paper formats.

At the same time, Germany is to put forward a plan that could see people who are fully inoculated against Covid-19 face fewer restrictions. For example, vaccinated people, and those who’ve recovered from Covid, may not have to quarantine after travel.

The government is working on a proposal which it will put forward to the Bundestag and Bundesrat at the end of May.

READ ALSO:

Germany has pledged that all adults will be able to apply for a Covid vaccine in June when the priority order is lifted although there will be long waiting lists.

What about international travel in general?

While border policy is a matter for individual member states, the EU has adopted some rules across the bloc particularly around travel from outside Europe.

The EU halted all non-essential travel to the bloc in March 2020 to limit the spread of coronavirus, with some exceptions.
 
Now it looks like things will begin to open up in the coming months.
 
The European Commission is to recommend a bloc-wide policy change that would allow American tourists who are fully vaccinated against Covid to visit the EU from this summer.
 
 
This could in theory be opened out to people in other non-EU countries who have been vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine if the infection and vaccine situation allows.
 
It may be that so-called ‘travel corridors’ are opened up between countries to allow people who are inoculated or tested against Covid to travel between countries. However, low Covid-19 rates would likely be required for this.
 
New Zealand and Australia recently opened up a ‘travel bubble’ for this purpose. When a positive Covid case is detected, strict measures come into force to avoid outbreaks.
 
So are we set for a normal-ish summer in Germany?
 
It’s a bit too early to tell. Although things are moving forward when it comes to vaccinations, Germany is still struggling with rising coronavirus numbers in many places.
 
On Tuesday Germany reported 10,976 coronavirus cases within 24 hours, as well as 344 deaths. The number of cases in seven days per 100,000 people stood at 167.6. The country wants to get this number under 100 – and then aim for under 50, under 35 and even under 10 if possible.
 
And even before summer, Germany has some national public holidays including Ascension Day on May 13th and Whit Monday on May 24th. Corpus Christi on June 3rd results in a day off for six states.
 
It’s not clear if hotels and other accommodation, which are currently only open to business travellers or for essential reasons, will be able to allow all guests by then.
 
According to Chancellor Angela Merkel, a summer season with more freedom “depends on what we do now”. On Saturday national rules including curfews were brought in for Covid-hotspots – dubbed the ’emergency brake’.
 
After the vaccination summit with the state premiers on Monday, Merkel spoke of a “conference of hope”. Despite all the planned efforts to make a reasonably “normal” summer possible, she said, we can’t forget the present.

Merkel said: “There is still a serious situation. The faster we get through this serious phase, the faster hope spreads.”

The Chancellor once again emphasised that Germany’s intensive care units are struggling. As before, she said, the danger of overburdening the health system had not yet been averted.

READ ALSO: Germany moves to relax Covid rules for vaccinated people

The fact that holidays were possible in the summer of 2020 was due to the low infection figures, some of which were in single digits, she said.

Yet Germany won’t need to have such low rates this summer, because vaccinations will ease the situation.

But Merkel also admitted that she is not sure when Germany will open its hotels again and allow domestic tourism to flourish.

“That depends on the course of what we are doing at the moment,” she said, adding that “more weeks of effort” are needed.

What is clear is that Germany’s tourism industry is desperate for a boost and residents want a break from the crisis, whether it’s abroad or in Germany.

The government’s tourism commissioner, Thomas Bareiß, said in February he hopes that holidays will be possible again after the Whitsun holidays, around May 24th.

“I hope that by summer most Germans will have been vaccinated and will also be able to travel abroad,” Bareiß told Bild newspaper.”


Member comments

      1. Thank you. I don’t get “home leave” until next September. I was hoping my parents could come and visit me in Germany.

        1. That might be able to happen soon depending on where your parents are coming from. Most experts are saying the summer is looking good. Fingers crossed and good luck.

  1. Planning on a trip at the end of November for Christmas markets in Germany and Central Europe and then time in Frankfurt to see family and friends. Rescheduled from 2020 so sure hope it will happen. Haven’t books flights yet but will do soon.

    Really enjoy your coverage!

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