Germany eases quarantine rules with eye on summer travel

Germany on Wednesday said people who are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid or can show a recent negative test will no longer have to quarantine after arriving from a coronavirus risk area, opening up swathes of Europe for summer travel.

Germany eases quarantine rules with eye on summer travel
People on a beach in Mallorca in May. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZUMA Wire | John-Patrick Morarescu

The new rules agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet cover popular holiday destinations such as Italy, Spain and Greece.

But they leave out neighbouring France, which is considered an area of “particularly high risk of infection”, meaning unvaccinated travellers would still need to quarantine upon return to Germany.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said relaxing the rules made sense because Germany generally has “a very similar infection situation” to countries classed as risk areas, and it would make travel easier for families this summer.

“This could be a solution for parents who are possibly already vaccinated and want to travel with their (unvaccinated) children,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

Until now, people entering Germany from risk areas had to self-isolate upon arrival and wait five days before taking a coronavirus test which, if negative, would end their quarantine.

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

For unvaccinated people, the five-day rule still applies when coming from countries listed in the higher risk category such as France.

But the fully vaccinated, or those who can produce a positive PCR test that is at least 28 days old to show they have recovered from Covid-19, will be exempt from quarantining even when coming from such “high risk” regions.

Stricter entry regulations and mandatory quarantine remain in place however for anyone coming from regions designated as virus variant areas, such as India, South Africa and Brazil.

Negative Covid test must be shown

Anyone travelling to Germany by plane must also still show a negative test before boarding, regardless of which country they are flying in from, Spahn added.

The updated travel guidance comes as Germany has significantly ramped up its vaccination pace, with more than 33 percent of adults having received their first jab so far.

READ ALSO: How did Germany turbocharge its vaccination rollout – and what can it do better?

The country is also seeing a drop in new infection numbers after tightening its coronavirus restrictions, with Spahn last week saying Germany’s third Covid wave “appears to have broken”.

Germany added almost 15,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to just over 3.5 million, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

More than 85,000 people have died to date.

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Could sleeper trains offer Germans cheap, low-carbon travel across Europe?

Several political parties in Germany have said they want to bring back sleeper trains in order to meet carbon emissions targets.

Could sleeper trains offer Germans cheap, low-carbon travel across Europe?
A sleeper train in Austria. Photo: dpa/APA | Georg Hochmuth

The Green party have said that they want to put state subsidies into night trains that will connect Germany with cities as far flung as St Petersburg in the north and Lisbon in the south.

According to the environmentalist party’s plans, 40 night rail lines could connect 200 destinations across the continent including islands like Mallorca, which would be linked in by train and ferry.

The Greens want the EU to buy a fleet of sleeper trains that could travel at speeds of between 200 km/h and 250 km/h.

The CDU have also announced plans to rebuild the country’s sleeper train services.

Deutsche Bahn stopped its last sleeper service in 2016 citing the high costs involved in maintaining its fleet that was not recuperated through ticket sales.

Earlier this year the state owned company said it had “no plans” to purchase new sleeper wagons.