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Reader Question: Can I travel between the UK and Germany if I’m vaccinated?

Due to the discovery of a new Indian variant in Britain, the UK is currently classed as 'risk area' for Covid-19. But can people still travel between Germany and the UK if they're fully vaccinated?

Reader Question: Can I travel between the UK and Germany if I'm vaccinated?
An EasyJet plane leaves Gatwick Airport on May 17th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PA Wire | Gareth Fuller

This story is now out of date after Germany upgraded the UK’s risk status. Please see our new story here:

Germany bans travel from UK over Indian Covid variant

With the turbo rollout of the vaccine and rapidly sinking infection rates, the UK was far from the sick man of Europe just a few weeks ago.

But thanks to the presence of a new Indian variant of Covid-19 in the country, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has recently put the country on its list of ‘risk’ areas, which means travellers are subject to certain restrictions when travelling to and from the UK. 

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

With the German government relaxing rules on international travel, however, some people will be exempt from quarantine requirements when travelling between the UK and Germany – including those who are fully vaccinated, although it will depend on where you you have been vaccinated for now.

However, since Germany is on the UK’s ‘Amber List’, travellers entering the UK from Germany will still be subject to strict quarantine rules. 

Keep in mind that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also warned people against travelling to ‘amber’ countries, which Germany is currently classed as.

So I don’t need to quarantine in Germany – even if I’m travelling from a ‘risk’ area?

Anyone who is fully vaccinated, has recovered from the virus (within a specific time frame) or can show a negative Covid-19 test does not have to quarantine when arriving in Germany from a ‘risk’ area.

If you were vaccinated in Germany you can show proof of your vaccination passport or the document they gave you when you got your shots.

The EU is finalising details of its ‘digital green pass’, which is expected to come into force in June. So if you were vaccinated in another EU country, you will likely to be able to show proof through that soon.

But there may be some added complications if you were vaccinated in a non-EU country such as the UK, USA, Australia or Canada as the EU and the non-EU country needs to recognise each other’s vaccine certificate.

The EU has already said it has opened talks with the USA. On Wednesday EU ambassadors for the 27 member states reached an agreement to allow vaccinated holidaymakers from outside the EU, including the UK, to visit the bloc, reports said.

The EU currently has a small “safe list” of countries from where travellers are allowed in for non-essential reasons due to its infection rates. The list includes Australia, New Zealand and Israel. The UK is expected to be formally added to this list on Friday.

If you are travelling from a country outside the EU which is not on Germany’s travel corridor safe list (including the UK), you are currently only permitted to enter Germany if you are returning to your place of residence; if you serve in an important role; or there is an urgent need for your travel. There are more details here.

People who have German residence or citizenship, however, are allowed to enter Germany from any country (as long as they follow rules).

Under Germany’s new rules, travellers who have been vaccinated and who want to arrive in Germany from the UK will have to register on the government’s entry portal, and upload proof that they have had both shots of the vaccine.

In the case of the US vaccine Johnson & Johnson, they would only need to have had one shot.

For anyone who isn’t fully inoculated yet, registering on the portal and providing a positive PCR-test at least 28 days old and no older than six months to prove you have recovered from Covid-19 will also exempt you from the need to quarantine. 

If you haven’t had the vaccine (or your vaccine isn’t recognised), a negative test submitted on the entry portal form before flying will also prevent you from having to quarantine.

Everyone has to show proof of either being vaccinated, recovered or testing negatively to the airline carrier before boarding.

If you are not flying, you have to submit the test within 48 hours of arriving in Germany.

The rules are quite complicated – we’ve written a detailed explainer to help break them down. We’ve also provided links to government advice in that article that you might find helpful.

READ ALSO: Explained – Germany’s new relaxed quarantine and testing rules for travel 

What do the different risk categories mean? 

While we don’t want to minimise the risk of infection, it is worth noting that ‘risk area’ (or Risikogebiet) is the German government’s lowest-level ‘risk’ category – aside from those places that are categorised as ‘no risk’. 

The two higher-risk categories that the government uses are:

  • High incidence areas: Countries or regions with a particularly high rate of infection per 100,000 inhabitants
  • Areas of variant of concern: Countries or regions where a Covid-19 ‘variant of concern’ has been recorded

For the two above categories, stricter rules apply.

For example, if you’re travelling from a ‘high-incidence area’, such as France, you will only be exempt from quarantine if you are fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19. If neither of those apply to you, you’ll need to quarantine for up to 10 days – with the option of taking a Covid-19 test five days into your self-isolation to cut the time (if it comes back negative).

For ‘areas of variant of concern’, such as India and Brazil, there is a general ban on travel to Germany. However, some people, such as German citizens or residents, are allowed to enter. In this case, all travellers – including the vaccinated and recovered – face a mandatory quarantine of 14 days, and there is no option to shorten the quarantine. 

As the UK has been put on the lower ‘risk’ list due to concerns over some outbreaks of the virus variant that originated in India, there is some concern that it could be placed on a higher risk category. Currently the risk status hasn’t been changed, but we’ll keep an eye on it and let you know.

What counts as proof of vaccination? 

For this, you’ll need to present an electronic or paper version of your vaccine certificate, which can be in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish. Your last dose of the vaccine must have been given more than two weeks ago, and the vaccine itself must be cleared for use in the EU.

In other words, AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are all in, but Russia’s Sputnik is out. 

READ ALSO: How do you prove you’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in Germany?

But as we said above, it’s still not clear how people who have been vaccinated outside of Germany will be recognised, although the internationally recognised ‘yellow booklet’ certificate is recognised in Germany.

What about travelling to the UK from Germany?

Germany is currently on England’s ‘amber list’, so you will have to quarantine for 10 days after arriving in England. You will also have to take two Covid-19 tests: one before or on day two of your arrive, one on or after day eight.

However, if you pay for a private Covid-19 test under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme, you may be able to leave quarantine early. 

The quarantine rules apply even if you are fully vaccinated. 

There are different rules for other parts of the UK. However, Scotland has indicated it will bring in a similar ‘traffic light’ system from May 24th.

What else do I need to know? 

While entering Germany from the UK is less difficult now, prospective travellers should refer to government advice before they decide to travel.

At present, the UK government is advising against non-essential travel to Germany, which means that, in theory, only those who are resident in Germany or must go there for other urgent reasons should consider travelling at present. 

We updated this story on May 19th to include information about recognition of vaccine certificates.

Please keep in mind that this article, as with all of our guides, are to provide assistance only. They are not intended to take the place of official legal advice.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.