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COVID-19

Germany lifts ban on travellers from UK, Portugal and India

Germany is removing the entry ban and easing travel rules for five countries where the Delta variant is widespread, including the UK, Portugal and India.

Germany lifts ban on travellers from UK, Portugal and India
Travellers during border checks at Berlin Brandenburg airport on July 2nd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

Portugal, Britain and Northern Ireland, Russia, India and Nepal will be removed from the ‘virus variant’ list from Wednesday. They will be classed as ‘high incidence’ areas instead, the Robert Koch Institute announced on Monday evening.

It means that the entry ban currently in place will be lifted. Meanwhile, people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 coming from ‘high incidence’ areas do not have to quarantine. They can also show their proof of vaccination/recovery before boarding a flight to Germany instead of a negative Covid test. 

People coming from ‘high incidence’ areas who aren’t vaccinated have to provide a negative Covid test before departure to Germany, and quarantine for 10 days on arrival with the option to end it after five days with a negative Covid test. 

READ ALSO: When might Germany ease travel rules for countries with the Delta variant of Covid?

Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that Germany would soon relax travel rules on people arriving from the UK due to the Delta variant being widespread in both countries. 

“We think that in the foreseeable future those who have received double jabs will then according to our classification… be able to travel again without going into quarantine,” she had said. 

What are the rules for ‘virus variant’ areas?

In total, Germany has three risk categories – virus variant, high incidence and basic risk area. 

India was classified as a virus variant area at the end of April, followed by Nepal and the UK in May. The EU country Portugal, as well as Russia, were added to the list on June 29th.

In the highest Covid risk category for virus variants, drastic entry restrictions apply. These are:

– Airlines, bus and train companies are not allowed to transport people from virus-variant areas to Germany unless they are German citizens or have residence in Germany.

– Anyone entering Germany from virus-variant areas must quarantine for 14 days – even if he or she is fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid.

READ MORE: ‘Extremely strict’: What it’s like to travel from the UK to Germany right now

Earlier in June the EU summit in Brussels, Merkel had pushed in vain for common travel rules in the EU to curb the spread of the Delta variant.

However, experts say this variant is also widespread in Germany, even if the infection figures in the Bundesrepublik are significantly lower than in Portugal and the UK.

With the downgrading of the five countries, the number of ‘virus variant areas’ worldwide drops from 16 to 11. Among the remaining countries in the highest risk category are Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa and several other countries in Africa.

READ ALSO: Germany could ease travel rules for UK and Portugal soon, says Health Minister

Member comments

  1. Does anyone know if young children have to quarantine if their parents are vaccinated? I have struggled to find a conclusive answer. The Ordinance from May 12 appears to give an exemption from isolation for those visiting first or second degree relatives provided they have a negative test. Section 6, 2 (b) (aa) – but I am not confident interpreting the translated version. Section 4 is the bit on isolation. Apologies if a stupid question.

    (2) Section 4 also does not apply to the following:

    1. Persons who are in possession of proof of testing and

    a) the work they carry out is critical to maintaining
    aa) the functioning of the health system, in particular doctors, nursing staff, medical support staff and carers,
    bb) public safety and order,
    cc) diplomatic and consular relations,
    dd) the functioning of the administration of justice,
    ee) the functioning of parliament, government and the administration at the federal, state and local level, or
    ff) the functioning of the organs of the European Union and of international organisations,

    b) are entering in order to

    aa) visit first- or second-degree relatives, a spouse or life partner who does not form part of the same household,
    or on account of shared custody or a right of access,

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TRAVEL NEWS

Will Germany manage to tackle its airport chaos this summer?

Emergency plans to fill staffing gaps at airports are underway - but Germany's largest airline says disruptions could continue. Here's what you need to know.

Will Germany manage to tackle its airport chaos this summer?

What’s going on?

There have been warnings about impending flight chaos over the summer holidays for several weeks now following nightmarish scenes at airports over the Whitsun weekend. 

On Friday, when schools in the populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia broke up for the summer, those fears appeared to be have been realised. 

As The Local reported on Monday, airports in the region have struggled to cope with the sudden surge in passenger numbers. Holidaymakers were forced to wait for hours just to clear security at Düsseldorf and Cologne airports and there were reports of mix-ups at the baggage reclaim stations.

Hundreds of passengers were also sent home from Düsseldorf airport on Saturday evening without their bags and asked to return the next day to collect them. 

To make matters worse, airlines are also struggling to run their services on schedule and flight cancellations are becoming the new normal. 

READ ALSO: ‘Arrive three hours early’: Your tips for flying in Germany this summer

According to regional newspaper, the Rheinische Post, around 70 flights were cancelled at Düsseldorf at short notice over the weekend. 

The news follows confirmation from Lufthansa that at least 3,200 flights have been taken off the schedule this summer. Germany’s largest airline had initially announced that it would be scrubbing a 1,000 flights in the month of July, but later went on to add that 2,200 further services would be cancelled during the busy summer months.

Lufthansa’s subsidiaries Eurowings and Swiss have also cancelled flights in the run up to the vacation period, while EasyJet has also confirmed that a “small number” of flights will be taken off its schedule. 

How is the government planning to tackle this?

According to reports in Bild am Sonntag, the German government wants to step in and alleviate some of the staffing pressure by allowing German companies to recruit thousands of short-term workers from abroad. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said he was working alongside Labour Minister Hubertus Heil and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (both SPD) to “relieve the staff shortages at German airports and present a temporary solution”.

“The Federal Government is planning to allow urgently needed personnel from abroad to enter Germany for temporary work,” Heil confirmed on Sunday.

Ralph Beisel, CEO of the German Airports Association (ADV), told DPA the staff would be recruited from Turkey, the Balkan states and other countries for a period of up to three months. 

Passengers at Düsseldorf airport

Passengers with wheeled suitcases at Düsseldorf airport over the weekend. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

But the opposition CDU/CSU parties have criticised the plans and argued that the problem should be solved with German workers instead.

“The airport chaos could be permanently solved with domestic skilled workers,” CDU transport policy spokesman, Thomas Bareiß (CDU), told the Rheinische Post. 

Estimates from the German Economics Institute suggest that there is currently a shortage of about 7,200 skilled workers at German airports. Airport and airline bosses fired thousands of employees in an effort to cut costs during the Covid pandemic and others sought new work during the crisis.

With highly infectious Omicron subvariants tearing through the country, the industry is also having to reckon with regular staff illness and the self-isolation regulations. This is compounding the severe staffing issues.

READ ALSO: Germany to ‘recruit workers from abroad’ to ease airport chaos

Could the situation improve in summer?

If the government lays the groundwork for an easy recruitment and relocation process, around 2,000 airport workers could enter Germany as early as July. But this may still not be enough to completely make up for the shortfalls.

So far, just one of Germany’s 16 states has commenced its school holidays. The remaining 15 are due to go on holiday in July and August. 

In more disheartening news for passengers, the CEO of Lufthansa has warned that the current staffing issues won’t be resolved until at least winter this year – or possibly 2023. 

In an open letter to customers, CEO Carsten Spohr said the sudden increase in air traffic from nearly zero at the height of the Covid travel restrictions to around 90 percent meant the industry could not deliver its usual “reliability, robustness and punctuality”.

Düsseldorf airport chaos

Long queues at Düsseldorf airport over the weekend. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | David Young

“We can only apologise to you for this and we also want to be completely honest,” Spohr wrote. In the coming weeks, with passenger numbers continuing to rise, whether for holidays or business trips, the situation will hardly improve in the short term.”

The CEO said that the group, which announced it was laying off 30,000 staff during the pandemic, was in the process of rapidly recruiting thousands of new workers. “However, the stabilising effect from this will only be felt in the coming winter,” he added.

In an interview on Welt TV, Transport Minister Wissing expressed dismay at the fact that the industry had not started dealing with its staffing issues sooner.

“Securing skilled staff is not an issue that is new, everyone knows that this is one of the most important tasks,” the FDP politician said. 

In another letter addressed to employees, Spohr admitted that the management had made mistakes over the previous two years.

“Under the pressure of the more than €10 billion in pandemic-related losses, did we overdo it with savings in one place or another? Sure we did,” he said. “Quite frankly, for our management team and for me personally, this was the first pandemic we had to deal with.”

READ ALSO:

What else can be done? 

As well as the efforts of government and private companies, Germany’s United Services Union (Verdi) is also stepping in to support the struggling industry.

On Tuesday, the union called on Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings to attend a short-notice crisis summit in order to find joint solutions for employees and passengers over summer.

Verdi pointed to the recent layoffs carried out by airlines in the Lufthansa Group, including Eurowings, and said that the situation was placing “enormous physical and psychological strain” on employees.

Police officers at Düsseldorf airport

Police officers keep an eye on passengers at Düsseldorf airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | David Young

“High levels of sick leave and employee resignations are the result,” they wrote. “This subsequently results in flight cancellations with angry passengers and chaos at the airports.” 

Marvin Reschinsky, Verdi’s negotiator at Eurowings, said he was confident of finding a solution with the airline that could help ease the situation. 

“We are optimistic that with mutual determination we can succeed in finding solutions to the current situation that are in the interests of both employees and passengers,” Reschinsky said. “This is necessary to safeguard holiday traffic again.”

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