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Is Germany set to tighten testing and quarantine travel rules?

As the Delta strain of Covid-19 is spreading in several regions, German state leaders are pushing for stricter conditions on holidaymakers and travellers coming into Germany from all countries.

Is Germany set to tighten testing and quarantine travel rules?
A German group of tourists at Palma de Mallorca airport on June 26th - the mask requirement at the airport has been lifted. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Clara Margais

Covid infections have been rising in the UK, Portugal – and even Israel and Australia – due to the spread of the more infectious Delta strain.

And now calls are growing on tighter rules and checks on people travelling into Germany. 

It comes as the German government has been easing travel restrictions on several countries including the US, while keeping them tough for so-called ‘virus variant area of concern’ regions.

On Friday Germany relaxed its borders to vaccinated travellers from non-EU countries, but announced that two more countries – Portugal and Russia – were being added to the ‘virus variant area of concern list’. The UK, India and South Africa are already on the list, along with several other countries. 

Travel is generally banned from virus-variant regions. German residents and citizens can return to the country but they must adhere to strict testing rules and quarantine for 14 days even if they are fully vaccinated. 

But with other regions that were previously deemed non-risk seeing an increase of Covid cases due to Delta, will Germany put tighter controls on all travel back in place?

‘Don’t bring danger back to Germany’

With an eye on the rise of the share of the supercontagious variant in Covid cases in Germany – despite an overall low number – several state government politicians are pushing to tighten testing and quarantine rules when people enter the country from abroad.

Hamburg’s mayor, Peter Tschentscher (SPD), slammed the fact that a rapid antigen test taken before travel to Germany is currently enough to avoid quarantine when entering the country from basic ‘risk areas’.

“That is too unsafe,” he told Die Welt. Instead, he said, all unvaccinated travellers returning from risk areas and high-incidence areas should be ordered into quarantine, which could be lifted at the earliest after five days if they receive negative results from a PCR test.

Berlin’s head of government, Michael Müller, expressed a similar view.

“It’s nice that people can go on vacation. But we don’t want to bring the dangers back here to Germany,” the SPD politician told broadcaster ZDF. 

He added that spot checks on examining people’s evidence of negative tests, or proof of vaccination at the border were “not enough”.   

Previously, Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) demanded that holidaymakers returning to Germany be more closely checked at the borders for vaccination cards and negative Covid tests.

Lower Saxony’s state premier Stephan Weil backed the demand: “I expressly support the call for border controls to check whether (people’s) negative tests are available. This is precisely what has been lacking so far,” the SPD politician told Die Welt.

Weil also called for mandatory double testing for all returnees who are not fully vaccinated.

“Even in countries with comparatively low incidences, you run the risk of meeting other holidaymakers who are carrying the much more contagious Delta variant,” he said.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s state premier Manuela Schwesig (SPD) previously warned: “International travel must not lead to more people becoming infected again and carrying the virus home.”

Meanwhile, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been pushing for all EU countries to order a quarantine for arrivals from the UK over fears of the Delta variant spreading. 

On Monday Germany reported 219 Covid cases within 24 hours, and eight deaths. The number of cases per 100,000 people in seven days stood at just 5.6.

READ ALSO: How can tourists and visitors in Germany get a Covid-19 test? 

What are Germany’s travel rules?

Germany has a three-tiered warning system in place for countries and regions across the world, ranging from a basic ‘risk’ zone, to a ‘high incidence’ area and the highest risk category is ‘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.

The Robert Koch Institute’s risk list is updated regularly.

Germany is set to lift its pandemic travel warning for most countries from July 1st. 

However, anyone coming into Germany by air is still subject to a general testing obligation: everyone – whether coming from a risk area or not – must present a negative Covid test result, a vaccination certificate or proof of recovery from Covid before departure.

Politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have spoken out about the race to vaccinate people before the Delta variant spreads widely in Germany.

READ ALSO: Where (and how) are Germany’s Delta variant Covid cases spreading?

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TRAVEL NEWS

Traffic warnings issued in Germany ahead of public holiday

People travelling in Germany this week have been warned to expect heavy traffic and busy airports.

Traffic warnings issued in Germany ahead of public holiday

Germany has a nationwide public holiday on May 26th to mark the Christian holiday Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt), which is also known as Father’s Day or Men’s Day.

Many people also book the Friday off work – known as a Brückentag (bridge day) – to make their annual leave go further. 

It comes after a disappointing start to the year when some public holidays fell on the weekend, meaning that most people didn’t get the day off in Germany. 

READ ALSO: German politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Meanwhile, with Covid restrictions being eased in most countries around the world, people in Germany are now desperate to make the most of their time off. 

It means that roads and airports are likely to be much busier – from Wednesday afternoon onwards. 

Germany’s biggest car club, the ADAC, warned that traffic jams were expected. 

Where are the worst traffic jams expected?

The ADAC expects the first peak of congestion on Wednesday from around 1pm to 7pm. It will also be very busy on Saturday and Sunday, while experts believe Friday will be fairly quiet on the roads. 

Roadworks might also pose a problem – the ADAC says more than 1,000 construction work sites are in place across Germany right now. 

The ADAC said the biggest traffic jams were expected around Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich, as well as on the following motorways:

A1 Cologne – Bremen – Hamburg – Lübeck

A2 Berlin – Hanover – Dortmund

A3 Cologne – Frankfurt – Würzburg – Nuremberg

A4 Kirchheimer Dreieck – Erfurt – Chemnitz – Dresden

A5 Hattenbacher Dreieck – Darmstadt – Karlsruhe

A6 Heilbronn – Nuremberg

A7 Hamburg – Hanover and A7 Würzburg – Füssen/Reutte

A7 Hamburg – Flensburg

A8 Stuttgart – Munich – Salzburg

A9 Munich – Nuremberg

A10 Berlin Ring

A61 Mönchengladbach – Koblenz – Ludwigshafen

A81 Stuttgart – Singen

A93 Inntaldreieck – Kufstein

A95/B2 Munich – Garmisch-Partenkirchen

A99 Munich Autobahnring

Ascension Day is also a public holiday in Austria and Switzerland. 

Road experts say there could similarly be some busy roads in these countries which could affect Germans crossing the borders. 

“This will be particularly noticeable on the access roads to the leisure regions in the lower road network of the Alpine countries – for example, in Austria the Carinthian lakes, the Salzkammergut, Lake Neusiedl and the recreational areas of the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Valais,” said the ADAC.

“Slightly longer driving times should also be planned for the Tauern, Fernpass, Brenner, Rhine Valley and Gotthard routes.”

READ ALSO: Why Germans are being warned not to cycle drunk on Father’s Day

What about airports?

German airports are also expecting a rush of passengers this week. 

From Wednesday until Sunday this week, around 77,000 passengers per day are expected at Berlin’s BER airport. On regular weekdays, between 55,000 and 65,000 passengers is the norm, while around 70,000 travellers pass through BER on the peak days of Friday and Sunday.

Passengers are urged to be at the airport at least two hours before check-in, and to keep an eye for any updates or changes to their trip from their airline. 

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