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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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COVID-19 RULES

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

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