TRAVEL: Germany holds back on imposing tougher entry rules to tackle Delta strain

TRAVEL: Germany holds back on imposing tougher entry rules to tackle Delta strain
People queuing at Lisbon Airport. People queuing at Lisbon Airport. Strict rules remain in place for people form 'virus variant' areas. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paulo Mumia
A growing number of Covid infections in Germany are being caused by the more contagious Delta strain. But German politicians have decided against imposing tougher travel rules for now, though there are plans to step up border checks.

How bad are things in Germany?

Germany is undoubtedly in a good position right now, compared to where it was a few months ago. The Covid rate stands at just 5.4 cases per 100,000 people within seven days. On Monday 404 coronavirus infections and 57 deaths were reported within 24 hours.

But there is growing concern about the supercontagious Delta variant of Covid-19 which has been pushing cases up in some other countries. 

Countries with high vaccination rates, including the UK and Israel, are battling outbreaks of the variant. 

And according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the share of the highly infectious strain has already been detected in at least 35 percent of cases in the third week of June, RKI boss Lothar Wieler told state health ministers on Monday.

Wieler even estimates that the share of the strain in new cases could actually be rising to around 50 percent, reported DPA. The RKI publishes a report on virus variants of concern every Wednesday evening. 

(article continues below)

See also on The Local:

Immunologist Carsten Watzl on Monday said he expects the Delta variant to be the dominant strain in Germany by July.

State and federal politicians met on Monday to consider tougher controls as the holiday season ramps up. 

READ ALSO: Is Germany set to tighten testing and quarantine travel rules?

So are we facing more travel rules?

Germany already has strict entry requirements for ‘virus variant’ countries. 

But several state politicians on Monday said they wanted stricter regulations on entry to Germany from other places to slow down the spread of Delta. 

However, after crunch talks between the federal and state governments, they decided not to impose tougher travel rules for the time being. Yet we could see tougher checks to ensure people are following the current restrictions. 

Saarland’s state premier Tobias Hans called for stricter controls on travellers returning to Germany.

“I do not expect the Corona pandemic to end quickly,” he said. “It would be naïve to believe that the number of infections in our country will stop rising. This is also evident in countries such as Great Britain and Israel, which are currently experiencing a fourth wave despite high vaccination coverage of their population,” the CDU politician told the Rheinische Post.

Trips during the summer holidays could become a breeding ground for another pandemic wave, he warned.

“For the return from certain risk countries or for air travellers, there are already testing obligations – these should also be more strongly controlled at the airports,” Hans urged. 

However, it is difficult to check the tests of travellers returning by car or train from the likes of Spain or France. “That’s why we need to continue with regular testing in schools, restaurants, gyms and businesses, for example,” he said. 

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) is in favour of better checks on travellers returning to Germany at the borders, but wants to avoid chaos.

“We have to make sure that we don’t bring additional infections into the country,” the CSU politician told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Seehofer said travellers could be checked at mobile spots as close to the border as possible. Rapid test stations could also be set up there again.

Some politicians have been urging the government not to change the rules again. 

“The current discussion about renewed changes unnecessarily unsettles people and costs trust,” said the government’s tourism commissioner, Thomas Bareiß (CDU). “The highest safety regulations already apply to such areas from which a danger is there due to the Delta variant. That’s where it should stay,” he told DPA.

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 the rules differ throughout Europe, leading many to question what happens if a tourist from Germany contracts the Delta strain from a traveller from the UK or another country while on holiday. 

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry did not comment on the question of how the possibility of German holidaymakers meeting travellers from high-risk countries in Mallorca, for example, is assessed.

However, Bareiß said that clear and comprehensible regulations had been created with the nationwide entry regulation. In many regions of the world, he said, it is currently safe to travel, subject to compliance with local hygiene measures and entry regulations.

“In order not to jeopardise this, it is important to be particularly vigilant with regard to the Delta variant,” he said. This could include stricter controls, he said, echoing the call for better checks. 

What are the current entry requirements?

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.

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.

Those who come from any type of risk area must also fill out a digital entry application. The confirmation is checked by the carrier and, if necessary, the federal police.

Due to the high prevalence of the Delta variant, Portugal and Russia have been classified as virus variant areas since midnight on Monday. Other virus variant areas include the UK, India and South Africa among others. 

High-incidence areas include Egypt, the Seychelles and Tunisia. Lower-risk areas are, for example, Turkey, Georgia, in Spain Andalusia or the Basque Country or three provinces of Sweden.

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


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.