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EXPLAINED: Germany’s new quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers

Germany has changed the rules for vaccinated people returning from 'virus variant' countries. Here's a look at what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: Germany's new quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers
Police carrying out checks on passengers from Portugal after it was named a virus variant area earlier this year although this has now been lifted. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

What’s happening?

Health Minister Jens Spahn announced last week that fully vaccinated people entering Germany from so-called ‘virus variant of concern’ zones, such as Brazil and South Africa, will no longer have to isolate for 14 days – if their vaccination protection is effective against the virus variant in the area they are travelling from.

At the moment everyone coming from countries classed as ‘virus variant’ by Germany has to complete a 14-day self-isolation with no option to cut it short with a negative Covid test, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated or not. 

But critics had questioned why fully vaccinated people could not shorten the quarantine period.

The new rules, however, do not impact the travel ban on ‘virus variant areas’. That remains in place, with only a few exceptions for entering Germany from these countries, such as for citizens or residents.

READ ALSO:

The testing rule has also not changed. Everyone coming from a ‘virus variant area’ still has to provide proof of a negative test before entering Germany – even if you are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19. 

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

So will vaccinated people have to quarantine when entering Germany from abroad?

That depends. The general rule is that vaccinated people do not have to quarantine when coming into Germany from ‘basic risk’ or ‘high incidence’ areas if they submit proof of vaccination. 

From July 28th, the fully-jabbed entering Germany from ‘virus variant’ areas will not have to quarantine in some cases. 

“For persons who have been fully vaccinated with a specific vaccine published on the website of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the isolation ends with the submission of their vaccination certificate,” a Health Ministry spokeswoman told The Local. 

Before entering Germany, travellers can submit proof of their vaccination on the online entry portal site. 

“The prerequisite is that the Robert Koch Institute has determined (and published on its website) that this vaccine is sufficiently effective against the virus variant that led to the classification of the area as a virus variant area,” the spokeswoman added. 

In other words, people who’ve been jabbed with a vaccine that the RKI says works against the Covid-19 variant, will be given an exemption from self-isolating.

According to German authorities these people “may end their quarantine after having submitted proof of vaccination”. Authorities added: “However, they still need a negative test result to enter Germany.”

READ ALSO: ‘Not worth it’: German holidaymakers cancel trips to Covid-hit Spain

The Local requested a link to the RKI’s published information on the effectiveness of vaccines against the different Covid variants, but the Health Ministry spokeswoman was unable to supply this information. 

We contacted the RKI and a spokeswoman told us that the RKI “monitors the possibility of new variants/the circulation of variants closely”.

“So far, there is no exemption; no list has been published,” she said, adding: “In its contact management, RKI recommends in cases in which people have clearly been exposed to Beta or Gamma that they are quarantined – even if they are fully vaccinated or recovered (from Covid).”

When are the rules in place until?

The latest quarantine regulations last until at least September 10th 2021.

Are any other rules changing?

The German government has also made it clear that if a ‘variant area’ is downgraded to either a ‘high incidence area’ or ‘basic risk area’ during the self-isolation period, then the rules for the new classification apply immediately. In that case it’s possible to shorten the quarantine period – even for unvaccinated people.

If the area is taken off all RKI’s risk lists – so-called de-listing – then domestic quarantine ends automatically, said the German government.

Earlier this summer Germany downgraded the risk status of five countries – including the UK and Portugal – from ‘virus variant’ areas to ‘high incidence’ areas because the Delta variant had also become widespread in Germany. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Who benefits from Germany’s €9 public transport ticket offer?

With Germany set to roll out the €9 monthly transport ticket soon, we looked at how it could benefit you (or not) - whether you're a car owner, tourist or a day tripper.

Who benefits from Germany's €9 public transport ticket offer?

For just €9 a month, passengers will be able to travel by bus, train and tram on local and regional transport throughout Germany over summer.

The ticket, which is in place for three months from June, is an unprecedented attempt to relieve German residents financially amid spiralling inflation, and to convince car owners to switch to more climate-friendly choices.

This Thursday, the Bundestag (German federal parliament) will make a final decision on the financing aspect to it, and on Friday it will go to the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block €9 ticket

Supporters see a great opportunity for more climate-friendly transport, while critics fear a flash in the pan and warn that overcrowded buses and trains are more likely to scare off potential new users. Of course, people with less disposable income will be helped most by this offer. But which other groups will actually benefit from the €9 ticket?

Long-term public transport customers (ÖPNV-Stammkunden)

If you have a subscription – known as an Abo in Germany – for local transport with a monthly or annual ticket, the ticket is a huge boost. That’s because you will only be charged €9 for the months of June, July and August or you’ll receive a refund or credit note. Many transport associations even hope to gain permanent subscription customers with the the lure of three low-cost months.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin

Car commuters (Auto-Pendler)

In a survey by Germany’s KfW, three quarters of households that use a car said they would consider switching regularly to buses and trains. So those who are well served by public transport, and who have suitable bus and rail connections to work, may well decide to make the switch because of the cheap offer. This will especially benefit people in large and medium-sized towns. 

If this is you, you’ll definitely save cash by leaving your car at home and taking public transport. The €9 monthly ticket costs less than 50 cents per working day. You won’t get back and forth by car to your destination that cheaply, even if the cut on fuel tax comes as planned.

READ ALSO: How many people will use the €9 ticket?

People driving to and from Cologne.

People driving to and from Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

Day trippers (Ausflügler)

For many day trips and weekends away, and even for some longer holidays in Germany, it can be worth buying a car. But the €9 ticket does hold the promise of offering excursions throughout the country, as long as you use regional trains since long-distance trains – like the high speed ICE – are not included. 

The Local has even gathered some of the best trips possible with the ticket, and tourism is expected to see a big boost. However, at the start and end of long weekends, such as the upcoming Whitsun (June 5th and 6th) and Corpus Christi (June 16th) in some states, the passenger association Pro Bahn expects chaos on trains heading for the coast and mountains. So perhaps choose your times to travel wisely. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

Residents in villages and small towns (Dorfbewohner)

As some Local readers have pointed out, the low-cost ticket for public transport is not so much use if buses – or even trains – rarely stop at the place you live. This is the case in many villages across Germany. According to calculations by the railway subsidiary Loki, many rural stops don’t even have an hourly service. 

Drivers can save on fuel and parking fees with a €9 ticket, but you need the transport connections to be able to benefit from it. Otherwise you’ll have to shell out more on taxis on top of the public transport cost. 

Cyclists (Radfahrer)

First thing first, the €9 ticket does not include a bike ticket, so you’ll have to buy one if you want to board a train with your bicycle. However, even if you buy a ticket for your bike to carry alongside your €9 ticket, the quality of your trip will very much depend on the day and time of travel, as well as the route you’re going on.

It often gets cramped on trains for passengers with bicycles, plus the number of bike parking spaces is limited. If it gets too crowded, train staff can decide not to let any more people with bikes on – even if you already have a ticket.

Trains are expected to be very busy during summer because of the low-cost ticket offer. Some operators are asking people not to take bikes on board. Berlin and Brandenburg operator VBB, for instance, urged all passengers to refrain from taking bikes with them during the campaign period and recommends travelling outside of rush hours. 

A cyclist enjoys a break in Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate.

A cyclist enjoys a break in Ingelheim, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Tourists (Touristen)

A group that will definitely benefit form this ticket is people visiting Germany. The ticket costs €9 per calendar month (so €27 in total). But a single day ticket in Munich costs €8.20 normally (and even more depending on the zone). In Berlin, a single day ticket costs €8.80. So even if you’re staying in Germany for two days, if you plan to be on public transport, you’ll get a good deal. 

READ ALSO: What tourists to Germany need to know about reduced-price public transport

Families (Familien)

According to Deutsche Bahn, 6-to 14-year-olds need their own €9 ticket or another ticket; as free transport is excluded from the cheaper transport offer.

Children under six do, however, generally travel free of charge. If you have a lot of children and only want to make a one-off trip, you may be better off with a normal ticket; it includes free travel for children up to the age of 14. For this one, it’s best to check on the local public transport provider’s options before you commit to the €9 ticket. 

Long-distance travellers and commuters (Fernreisende und Fernpendler)

As we mentioned above, the €9 ticket is not valid for long-distance travel, whether on ICE, Intercity and Eurocity, or the night trains of different providers, or on Flixtrain or Flixbus.

The DB long-distance ticket also includes the so-called City Ticket in 130 German cities: free travel to the station and on to the destination by public transport. So if you have this ticket, the €9 ticket is probably not needed.

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