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Germany moves United States and Israel to 'high risk' list: What does it mean?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 16 Aug, 2021 Updated Mon 16 Aug 2021 11:41 CEST
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Pedestrians cross the road on New York's famous Fifth Avenue. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mathias Wasik

As of Sunday, the United States and Israel have been bumped up to the 'high risk' list, meaning that different rules apply for travel.


What's happened?

The US and Israel were previously on Germany's Covid 'safe list' of non-EU countries due to high vaccination coverage and a low number of Covid cases.

That meant that travel to Germany from the US and Israel was open for all purposes, including tourism - and unvaccinated people could also enter Germany. 

But the US - along with Israel, Montenegro, Kenya and Vietnam - have joined the Robert Koch Institute's high-risk list as of Sunday.


According to the German Missions in the US, the new rules mean travellers who have spent time in the US within 10 days prior to entering the Germany "will have to be fully vaccinated or need to demonstrate an important reason for entering Germany".

This rule will also to apply to the other non-EU countries added to the high-risk list, including Israel, Vietnam and Kenya.

READ ALSO: Germany’s latest travel rules for vaccinated non-EU residents: What you need to know

German residents and citizens coming from the US are able to re-enter Germany without having a valid reason for travel, regardless of their vaccination status. 

The tightened restrictions could mean, however, that flights to Germany from the US and other affected countries are disrupted or cancelled at short notice. 

What else do I need to know?

As a high-risk country, the United States (and the other countries mentioned) are now subject to a travel warning, which could have an impact on travel insurance for those planning to travel there. 

READ ALSO: Germany poised to issue travel warnings for USA, Turkey and Israel

People who have been vaccinated against - or have recently recovered from - Covid will not have to quarantine on their return to Germany.

However, all travellers entering from the United States will have to register their visit on the Digital Entry Portal and upload proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. They must also carry their confirmation of registration with them when crossing the border into Germany. 

American Airlines flights land at Boston Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Steven Senne

People who aren't vaccinated or recently recovered - and are eligible to enter Germany - will have to quarantine for 10 days on their return to Germany, with the option to end quarantine after five days with a negative test. Children under 12 are released from quarantine automatically after five days.


A few weeks ago, Reuters reported that President Biden was mulling over a new system that would allow European tourists to enter the country as long as they were fully vaccinated. 

The vaccinated-only system would replace the current travel ban on European countries, which has been in place since March 2020. 

READ ALSO: Is the United States finally set to open up to travellers from Germany?

Until a new system is introduced, however, residents of Germany who aren't a citizen of the United States are barred from crossing the border if they don't have 'essential' reasons for doing so. 

According to the Interior Ministry's information on travel from non-EU countries, urgent reasons include study in Germany that can't be carried out abroad; healthcare or diplomatic work, and family reunification. 

Spiralling infection rates

The Health Ministry's decision on the United States comes as infection rates across the Atlantic continue to spiral. On Monday, the United States reported a 7-day incidence of 275 infections per 100,000 people, equating to an average of 128,991 infections per day.

According to data collected by Reuters, infections are rising in every single state. 

Countries placed on the high-risk list are considered to be areas where the chance of getting infected with Covid is particularly high - especially for unvaccinated travellers. 

Health experts take into account a combination of factors, such as infections rates, vaccination coverage and the impact of Covid on healthcare infrastructure to decide on the designation of each destination.

While the United States' vaccination campaign was turbocharged in the first few months of Joe Biden's presidency, the rate of vaccinations has slowed considerably, with the country only administering around 100,000 jabs per day. 

On June 30th, German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced that Germany had surpassed the United States for the first time in the percentage of the population who had been given their first vaccine dose.

READ ALSO: Germany overtakes US for first Covid jabs

Turkey also to be made 'high risk'

As well as the countries mentioned above, two oversees French territories - Guiana and Polynesia - were added to the high-risk list, just a week after popular regions in southern France were also upgraded. 

With the country now reporting a 7-day incidence of 190 infections per 100,000 people, Turkey will also be bumped up to the high-risk category from Tuesday evening, making it harder for non-German residents of the country to visit Germany.


Two popular tourist regions of Portugal - the coastal region of Algarve and the country's capital, Lisbon - were scrubbed from the list on Sunday, joining the Netherlands, which was removed from the high-risk list a week earlier. 

Shortly after rejigging its risk classifications to remove the 'basic risk' category at the start of August, at least 25 countries has been reclassed as high-risk.

From Tuesday, almost 70 countries will be on the Robert Koch Institute's high-risk list. 



The Local 2021/08/16 11:41

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chris44gw 2021/08/17 09:05
I'm glad I made it back to the US at the end of July to see my family for a few days. I'm fully vaccinated but who knows how long that will keep you safe from the rules changing. What a mess.
SJRouge91 2021/08/17 04:18
Here's hoping vaccinated people, and those that aren't vaccinated but at least have the decency to wear masks, will still be able to travel in the long run, and not end up banned alongside anti-vaxxers, just because they still think this a joke or some nonsense. Shouldn't let a few bad apples spoil the rest of the bunch.

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