Germany to ease quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers from ‘virus variant’ zones

The German government announced on Wednesday it plans to relax quarantine rules for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from 'virus variant areas of concern'.

Germany to ease quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers from 'virus variant' zones
Travellers in Frankfurt airport on July 17th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

It came as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet extended entry regulations to Germany put in place to help control the spread of Covid-19 until at least mid-September. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Wednesday that the Covid travel rules will be in place until September 10th. They were set to expire at the end of July. 

However, a change in quarantine rules will mean that soon fully vaccinated people entering from so-called ‘virus variant of concern’ zones, such as Brazil and South Africa, will not have to isolate for 14 days.

They will be able to end their quarantine early if they can prove that their vaccination protection is effective against the virus variant in the area they are travelling from.

No details have been given yet on how people will have to prove that – and how early they can shorten the quarantine period. The Local Germany will report on this when we have more information. 

READ ALSO: How Germany’s latest rules on foreign travel affect you

Travel is banned from countries classed by Germany as ‘virus variant areas of concern’. There are some exceptions, including for German citizens and residents – but currently everyone coming from these areas has to quarantine for 14 days with no option to shorten it. 

The cabinet also made it clear that if a virus variant country is downgraded to a high-incidence area while returnees are still in quarantine, the rules for high-incidence areas will apply immediately. 

That means that people will be able to end their 14-day quarantine period after five days with a negative test, and end it immediately if they can prove they are have either been vaccinated against, or recovered from, Covid. 

The German government recently downgraded five countries, including the UK and Portugal, from virus variant areas to high incidence countries after the Delta variant became widespread in Germany. 

The new quarantine rules will come into force after the old regulation expires on July 28th.

READ ALSO: Brazilian workers and students demand end to travel ban

Covid infections expected to rise

Spahn said it was necessary to extend the existing regulations after Germany saw a spike in cases after summer last year. “We learned from last summer that we have to pay attention, also when traveling,” he said.

Spahn also warned of a drastic increase in the 7-day incidence of Covid infections in Germany if the current development continues. 

He said the incidence could reach 400 infections per 100,000 people in September – and even 800 cases per 100,000 people in October.

Spahn reiterated his message from previous weeks – that the situation in autumn depends on people’s behaviour now. He urged everyone to stick to basic restrictions like wearing a mask and keeping distance. 

READ ALSO: ‘Nobody can rule out enormous fourth wave’: German schools fear new Covid restrictions

The 7-day incidence of Covid-19 infections has been rising continuously for over two weeks in Germany, and has recently slipped into double-digits. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Wednesday morning, the 7-day incidence was 11.4, compared with 10.9 on Tuesday.

Though still at a low level, the incidence has more than doubled since its most recent low of 4.9 on July 6th.

Spahn said consultations would be held with states to determine at what point restrictions would be introduced if needed. The situation is different today compared to last year due to the high vaccination rate, he said. 

The incidence has so far been the basis for many coronavirus restrictions in the pandemic. But in future, other factors ​​such as hospital admissions are to be taken into account more strongly.

READ ALSO: Germany to ‘focus more on Covid hospital admissions’ when deciding measures

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‘Trains of the future’: German rail operator plans huge modernisation

Germany's national railway company, Deutsche Bahn, is launching a modernisation offensive and plans to invest more than €19 billion in new trains over the next few years.

'Trains of the future': German rail operator plans huge modernisation

On Wednesday, Deutsche Bahn announced plans for its largest modernisation programme to date.

The record sum of €19 billion will help create the capacity needed to meet increased demand, as well as more modern vehicles which will help make the network more climate-friendly and reliable. 

“We are now investing in the trains of the future,” CEO Richard Lutz told the Innotrans rail technology trade show in Berlin on Wednesday.

At the trade show, Deutsche Bahn also showed what the regional train of the future may look like and presented a new double-decker wagon. It included special office cabins and family areas, which will go into service in Bavaria from spring 2023.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best night trains running through Germany

To enable more people to switch from cars to trains, the company says that around extra 450 highspeed ICE trains will run through Germany in 2030 and, next year, three new ICE trains will hit the tracks every month.

Over the next few years, Deutsche Bahn will be buying trains for long-distance services at a cost of around €10 billion – most of which will be spent on the ICE 4, while around €2.5 billion have been earmarked for 73 ICE 3 Neo trains, the first of which will go into service in December.

The end of Covid restrictions and the introduction of the €9 ticket at the beginning of June has recently given a huge boost to passenger numbers on buses and trains in Germany.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the successor to Germany’s €9 ticket

According to the Federal Statistics Office, almost 4.8 billion passengers used regular train services in the first half of 2022 alone – over 36 percent more than in the first six months of the previous year.