Travel: Germany adds four EU countries to Covid ‘high risk’ list

Unvaccinated travellers from Belgium, Ireland, Greece and the Netherlands will have to self-isolate for up to ten days on arrival in Germany as the Robert Koch Institute adds four new EU countries to its list of risk areas.

Closed restaurants in central Amsterdam
Restaurants stand closed in the centre of Amsterdam as tough measures come in to combat the fourth wave. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ANP | Robin Van Lonkhuijsen

As of Sunday, November 21st, people visiting Germany from each of the four countries will be subject to strict entry rules.

Under guidance from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), all travellers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Ireland now have to register on Germany’s Digital Entry Portal and upload proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test before entering the country. 

Those who can’t present proof of vaccination or recovery will be legally obliged to head straight to their destination in Germany and self-isolate there for up to ten days.

This time can be shortened by submitting a negative test on or after the fifth day of quarantine.

Germany is currently in the grip of a ferocious wave of Covid infections, with the Robert Koch Institute reporting a weekly incidence of almost 400 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, however, the 7-day incidence is twice as high as it is in Germany.

According to the latest data compiled by Reuters, the Netherlands is currently seeing 871 new weekly Covid cases per 100,000 people, while Belgium is seeing more than 840 per 100,000 people. 

The governments of both countries have recently moved to tighten up Covid restrictions, prompting large demonstrations against the measures that ended in violent altercations between protestors and police. 

In Greece, meanwhile, the 7-day incidence is marginally higher than in Germany at 442 weekly cases per 100,000 people, while Ireland is currently seeing 639 new infections per 100,000 people per week. 

Austrian travel ban

The upgrade of the four EU countries comes a week after neighbouring Austria was also bumped onto Germany’s high-risk list.

Amid soaring case numbers in the German-speaking nation, the Robert Koch Institute moved Austria onto its list of Covid risk zones on November 13th. 

On Monday, the country entered a national Covid lockdown – the first seen in Europe for several months – which involves a ban on non-essential travel into the country. 

Under the conditions of the lockdown, which is due to run until at least December 13th, no travel into Austria for touristic purposes is permitted. 

The southern regions of Bavaria that run along the Austrian border have become Covid hotspots in Germany in recent weeks, prompting state premier Markus Söder to recently announce a partial lockdown and cancel upcoming Christmas markets.


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UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”.