Germany re-classifies UK as Covid ‘risk’ area over Indian variant

Germany's health agency on Friday re-classified Britain as a coronavirus "risk area" over concerns about the spread of the Indian Covid-19 variant there, but travellers will still be able to avoid quarantine under updated rules.

Germany re-classifies UK as Covid 'risk' area over Indian variant
A British Airways plane flying out of Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The move by Germany’s Robert Koch Institute puts Great Britain and Northern Ireland back in the lowest-level risk category, barely a month after they were taken off the list following a decline in new infections thanks to widespread vaccinations.

“The classification is due, despite (a low incidence rate), to the at least a limited occurrence of the B.1.617.2 variant in the United Kingdom,” the RKI said in a statement.

The variant, first detected in hard-hit India, is believed to be more contagious than the original strain and has been classified by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern”.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules after travel

The British government on Friday said the variant was spreading “increasing rapidly” in parts of England, with identified cases doubling from 520 last week to 1,313 this week.

Germany this week eased rules for travellers coming from “risk areas”, the lowest of three risk levels, allowing unvaccinated people to avoid the previous 10-day quarantine if they can show a negative test.

Those who are fully vaccinated or can prove they have recovered from Covid by showing a positive PCR test that is at least 28 days old, do not need to quarantine.

Anyone coming from a risk country must still register their trip online with German authorities, and unvaccinated people entering Germany by plane must show a negative test before boarding.

READ ALSO: Indian virus variant ‘steadily increasing’ in Germany

The RKI on Friday also added Nepal to its list of “variant of concern” areas, the highest risk level, where it joins the likes of India, Brazil and South Africa.

Strict requirements are in place for anyone seeking to enter Germany from those countries, and even vaccinated people must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in a bid to stem the spread of more dangerous coronavirus strains.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now