Germany to lift Covid travel warning for most countries from July

Germany will lift its pandemic travel warning for most countries from July 1st, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday, bringing back more normalcy as residents are increasingly vaccinated against Covid-19.

Germany to lift Covid travel warning for most countries from July
A plane flying near Frankfurt in March. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Countries recording infection rates of 50-200 cases per 100,000 people in seven days would no longer be deemed a “risk-zone”.

The German government will also no longer generally advise against tourist travel abroad as of July 1st.

Restrictions however remain in place for countries with higher levels of infections, or where virus variants are circulating, such as Britain or India.

“With the summer, hope and confidence are returning to Germany. In many places, the number of infections is falling and more and more citizens are vaccinated,” said Maas.

“After long months of lockdowns, we can look forward to more normalcy, and that also applies to travelling.”

At the same time, the minister stressed that the lifting of the warning should not be seen as an “invitation to carelessness”.

Maas said “travel with reason and a sense of proportion” would be the motto of the summer.

With an eye on variants, he warned that “the danger from the virus and its mutants is far from over”.

He added: “That’s why we will continue to warn against travel where it makes sense: in high-incidence and virus-variant areas.”

READ ALSO: Germany is in ‘race to vaccinate’ against Covid Delta variant, says Merkel

It came as several countries – including the US, Canada, Austria, Ukraine, Cyprus, Lebanon and some regions in Portugal, Norway, Croatia, Switzerland and Greece, were removed from the current ‘risk’ list. The changes come into effect from June 13th.

The RKI updates the list on the classification of risk countries regularly.

Tough travel restrictions throughout pandemic

Germany began implementing tough travel restrictions at the start of the first Covid wave in March 2020. In summer last year, the ban on travel was lifted but a general tourist travel warning was put in place for most countries around the world.

The travel warnings have generally stayed in place throughout the second and third wave – and the government has also been urging people in Germany not to travel for non-essential purposes. 

However, with an incidence rate of just 19 per 100,000 people on Friday, Germany has seen a massive drop in Covid rates. Plus almost one in four people is fully vaccinated. Nearly half of the population has received at least one vaccine dose. 

Domestic tourism, as well as restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities have been opening up around the country in the last few weeks as Covid cases have dropped. Overnight accommodation in the capital Berlin opened on Friday June 11th for the first time in around eight months. 

Germany is also starting to roll out a digital vaccine and health pass – known as CovPass – as part of the EU’s plan to facilitate smoother travel among bloc countries.

That is due to come into play fully from July 1st. The aim is that people in the EU will be able to scan their digital vaccine certificate or Covid test results/proof of recovery onto an app(s) at borders. 

It is hoped the digital pass can be widened out to non-EU countries in future. 

READ ALSO: A million Europeans obtain Covid health pass ahead of vote

What are the current travel restrictions?

Germany has a tiered warning system in place for countries and regions across the world, ranging from a basic ‘risk’ zone, a ‘high incidence’ area or ‘virus variant area of concern’.

Different rules are required for arrivals from countries around the world depending on their risk status, although quarantine restrictions were eased recently – particularly for fully vaccinated people.

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

The highest risk areas are ‘virus variant of concern’ spots, which currently include India, Brazil, South Africa and the UK. 

There is a general ban on arrival into Germany from these countries although there are exceptions for German residents and citizens.

Anyone who does come from these countries, though, has to do a 14-day quarantine even if they are vaccinated, and there is no option to shorten it. 

READ ALSO: What are the Covid-19 test requirements for entering Germany

Despite easing Covid curbs in recent weeks, there are still lots of restrictions in place in Germany.

Rules on mask-wearing in shops and public transport, regular tests for schoolchildren and employees working from home remain in place, for example.

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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.