The move by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), effective on Tuesday, comes as Europe’s top economy tries to slow new cases in the face of the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant at the height of the summer tourism season.
If an area is classified by the RKI as a ‘high incidence area’, anyone who hasn’t been fully vaccinated or has not recovered from Covid within the last six months has to quarantine for 10 days when returning to Germany. The self-isolation period can only be shortened after five days with a negative test.
The RKI said in a statement that Georgia was now also immediately listed among the high-incidence countries, those with new infection rates of 200 or more per 100,000 people in the past seven days, reported AFP.
The rules are thought to particularly impact younger holidaymakers, many of whom have not yet been vaccinated. But even fully vaccinated parents could get into trouble if their children were made to quarantine for at least five days after returning from their trip abroad instead of attending school.
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‘Another blow to tourism’
Spain’s tourism industry had hoped for a much stronger business recovery this summer because of rising rates of vaccination across Europe – but now there are fears that increased restrictions could drive German visitors away.
“This decision will mainly affect Mallorca and the rest of the Balearic Islands,” wrote local Mallorcan newspaper Última Hora on Friday. Regional daily Diario de Mallorca, meanwhile, described the reports of Spain’s change in status as “yet another blow to tourism”.
In normal times, tourism contributes more than 12 percent to the Spanish gross domestic product (GDP). On the Balearic Islands, which include Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, and on the Canary Islands, it accounts for 35 percent of the economy and provides thousands of jobs.
Exploding infection rates in Spain and the Netherlands
Since the end of June, Covid numbers have skyrocketed practically everywhere in Spain. On July 11th, in light of spiralling infection rates, the German government moved Spain onto its ‘basic risk’ list, meaning travellers had to register on their re-entry into Germany after a trip.
Now – less than two weeks later – the country has one of the highest rates of infection in all of Europe.
Around 475,000 new infections have been counted within the past month, while the 7-day incidence of infections per 100,000 people rose from 42 in June to 333 on Friday.
This puts the country well above the 200 mark at which Germany can declare a country to be a high-incidence area. In Mallorca alone, the incidence recently reached a peak of 365.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the 7-day incidence is currently over 400, while in Amsterdam, the incidence soared beyond 700 over the past few weeks. The country was put on the ‘risk list’ just a week ago, on July 16th.
— Niek 🌱👨🏻💻 (@NiektenHoopen) July 13, 2021
Experts credit the Netherland’s hasty reopening of public life and the infectiousness of the Delta variant for the skyrocketing figures. For the past week, the country has consistently recorded more than 9,000 new infections per day.
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The consistently high numbers in both countries have led many to question why the Netherlands and Spain weren’t put on the high-incidence list sooner. According to the RKI website, however, exceeding the 200 mark means that a country will be more closely observed by health experts – rather than automatically put on the ‘high incidence’ list.
“The decisive factor for the quantitative assessment are actual and stable trends in the infection process, not snapshots,” a spokesperson from the Foreign Office told RND.