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COVID-19

TRAVEL: Germany adds UK to ‘virus variant’ risk list

Germany on Saturday announced that the United Kingdom would be placed in its highest Covid risk category, banning tourist travel as well as tightening testing and quarantine rules.

Travellers queue at Berlin's airport.
Travellers queue at Berlin's airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

The UK will be classified as a ‘virus variant area of concern’ from midnight on Sunday December 19th due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The move puts in place a temporary ban on almost all travellers arriving from the UK to Germany, except from its own residents. 

Travellers who are allowed to enter Germany – such as German nationals and people with residence rights – will have to quarantine for two weeks even if they are fully vaccinated, or have recently recovered from Covid. 

They also have to show a negative “up to date” PCR test before departure. Antigen tests are no longer accepted for travellers coming from Germany’s red list.  

The move is a blow to those heading home for Christmas, who will now have to cancel their plans or face the much tougher rules. 

Germany’s Health Ministry noted in the latest Robert Koch Institute risk list update: “Before departure, please be prepared for your carrier (e.g. airline) to require from you an up-to-date PCR test if you spent time in an area of variants of concern at any time in the ten days prior to entry.

“After your arrival, further PCR testing may be ordered by the health authorities at the airport or at the place of isolation/quarantine. Please be aware of the 14-day quarantine requirement, which also applies to vaccinated and recovered individuals. The duration of the 14-day quarantine may not be shortened.”

The RKI said the regions on the ‘virus variant list’ would remain there until at least January 3rd.

Other countries in Germany’s highest risk category include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The UK reported over 90,000 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, setting a record for the third day in a row. This figure included 10,059 new confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

There are estimated to be hundreds of Omicron cases in Germany, RKI boss Lothar Wieler said at a recent press conference.

READ ALSO: Germany must prepare for massive Omicron wave, says Health Minister

The ban does not apply to people on flight transfers through Germany who are not leaving the airport.

It comes after state health ministers across Germany called on the federal government to tighten the rules on travellers from the UK. 

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Member comments

    1. Denmark is an EU Member State, and also a Schengen State, while the UK is not. Travelling from the UK to the EU is not a right, but a privilege for British Citizens.

      1. So what? EU treaties allow member states to suspend open borders on a temporary basis if they have a good reason. We saw that in 2020. This decision is political expediency as much as a health concern.

        1. The possibility of re-introducing internal border controls is not mentioned in the “EU treaties”, but in Articles 25 to 35 of the Schengen Borders Code.

          In addition, the possibility of re-introducing border controls does not imply what border guards may decide at such controlled border. This is still subject to the additional rules, and differences are to be made between Union citizens and others.

          The possibility to restrict free movement of EU citizens for public health reasons (under strict conditions) is contained in Article 6 of Directive 2004/38/EC. However, different to the time at the start of the pandemic, EU states now coordinate and substantiate such legal provisions, e.g. by Recommendation (EU) 2020/912, as amended. The goal is to keep internal borders open as far as possible, and to restrict free movement of EU citizens as reluctantly as possible.

          The United Kingdom is not an EU Member State, and their citizens are not Union Citizens (cf. Article 20 TFEU) any more. The border to the United Kingdom is an external border. All considerations pertaining to internal borders and Union citizens do not apply to the United Kingdom and its citizens. The mere fact that United Kingdom citizens mostly do not require a visa to enter Schengen States does not mean that they have any right to enter, unless admitted.

          This is why I said that travelling to the EU is a privilege, and not a right, of British Citizens. This is surely politically determined – by the United Kingdom, which had decided to leave the European Union.

  1. Where is that information from that the PCR test should be no more than 48 hours old? Federal Foreign Office says 72

    1. Hi there, that was the previous rule for ‘virus variant areas’ but we are double checking this. Thank you for flagging up.

  2. So what? EU treaties allow member states to suspend open borders on a temporary basis if they have a good reason. We saw that in 2020. Its political isn’t and not entirely health based. Anyway,

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

READ ALSO: 

“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

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

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