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Germany bans travel from UK over Covid Indian variant

Germany is putting in place a temporary ban on all travellers arriving from the UK except from its own residents due to concerns over the spread of a Covid variant first discovered in India.

Germany bans travel from UK over Covid Indian variant
British Airways planes in Heathrow airport on May 17th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PA Wire | Steve Parsons

On Friday the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) classified the UK as a ‘virus variant area of concern‘ – Germany’s highest risk category.

Arrivals who are allowed to enter Germany will have to self-isolate for two weeks even if they test negative for Covid-19.

The health agency had moved the UK to the ‘risk’ country category a week ago in response to outbreaks in some areas linked to the Indian variant.

But due to Covid cases in the UK rising by more than 160 percent in a week, the RKI announced on Friday that Britain’s risk status was to increase.

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From midnight on Sunday only German citizens or people with German residence permits will be allowed to enter the country when arriving from Britain.

As the UK is now classed as a “virus variant zone”, travellers entering Germany will have to be tested before departure for Germany and immediately enter a 14-day quarantine on arrival – even if they are fully vaccinated.

The ban does not apply to people on flight transfers through Germany who are not leaving the airport.

“There are local outbreaks occurring again, including cases of more infectious variants such as the Indian variant at present,” said German Embassy in the UK.

“Therefore, to prevent the further spread of the virus, the United Kingdom has been classified as an area of variant of concern with effect from 23 May 2021.

“A ban on transportation and entry into Germany therefore applies from 23 May.”

Indian variant a major concern for Germany

Germany last week eased some quarantine and testing restrictions, but strict rules remain for virus variant areas of concern.

Only 11 other countries, in Asia, Africa and Latin America – including India and Brazil – are currently listed by Germany in the high-risk category of zones where virus variants are circulating.

The Indian variant B.1.617.2 is regarded as especially contagious and has been one factor driving the explosion in coronavirus infections in India in recent months.

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

According to British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking Wednesday, 2,967 cases linked to the variant have been identified in the UK, most notably in London and western England. That figure represents a 30 percent increase since Monday.

But so far the British government has insisted it remains on track to lift virtually all restrictions on public life from June 21st, after a successful vaccination campaign.

Earlier Friday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn voiced his concern at the situation in Britain, stressing the need to prevent the Indian variant
spreading in Germany.

Germany has been watching the UK closely in recent weeks due to the variant situation.

The latest report from the RKI published on Wednesday showed that the B.1.617 strain from India is being “increasingly detected” in Germany, but the share of it among samples of new cases tested remains relatively low.

In the report the RKI put the share of the variant at two percent of new cases for the week from May 3rd to 9th. The week before, it was 1.5 percent.

The RKI on Friday recorded 8,769 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours and 226 deaths in Germany, with a national incidence rate of 67.3 new infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

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Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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