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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

Traffic warnings issued in Germany ahead of public holiday

People travelling in Germany this week have been warned to expect heavy traffic and busy airports.

Traffic warnings issued in Germany ahead of public holiday

Germany has a nationwide public holiday on May 26th to mark the Christian holiday Ascension Day (Christi Himmelfahrt), which is also known as Father’s Day or Men’s Day.

Many people also book the Friday off work – known as a Brückentag (bridge day) – to make their annual leave go further. 

It comes after a disappointing start to the year when some public holidays fell on the weekend, meaning that most people didn’t get the day off in Germany. 

READ ALSO: German politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Meanwhile, with Covid restrictions being eased in most countries around the world, people in Germany are now desperate to make the most of their time off. 

It means that roads and airports are likely to be much busier – from Wednesday afternoon onwards. 

Germany’s biggest car club, the ADAC, warned that traffic jams were expected. 

Where are the worst traffic jams expected?

The ADAC expects the first peak of congestion on Wednesday from around 1pm to 7pm. It will also be very busy on Saturday and Sunday, while experts believe Friday will be fairly quiet on the roads. 

Roadworks might also pose a problem – the ADAC says more than 1,000 construction work sites are in place across Germany right now. 

The ADAC said the biggest traffic jams were expected around Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich, as well as on the following motorways:

A1 Cologne – Bremen – Hamburg – Lübeck

A2 Berlin – Hanover – Dortmund

A3 Cologne – Frankfurt – Würzburg – Nuremberg

A4 Kirchheimer Dreieck – Erfurt – Chemnitz – Dresden

A5 Hattenbacher Dreieck – Darmstadt – Karlsruhe

A6 Heilbronn – Nuremberg

A7 Hamburg – Hanover and A7 Würzburg – Füssen/Reutte

A7 Hamburg – Flensburg

A8 Stuttgart – Munich – Salzburg

A9 Munich – Nuremberg

A10 Berlin Ring

A61 Mönchengladbach – Koblenz – Ludwigshafen

A81 Stuttgart – Singen

A93 Inntaldreieck – Kufstein

A95/B2 Munich – Garmisch-Partenkirchen

A99 Munich Autobahnring

Ascension Day is also a public holiday in Austria and Switzerland. 

Road experts say there could similarly be some busy roads in these countries which could affect Germans crossing the borders. 

“This will be particularly noticeable on the access roads to the leisure regions in the lower road network of the Alpine countries – for example, in Austria the Carinthian lakes, the Salzkammergut, Lake Neusiedl and the recreational areas of the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Valais,” said the ADAC.

“Slightly longer driving times should also be planned for the Tauern, Fernpass, Brenner, Rhine Valley and Gotthard routes.”

READ ALSO: Why Germans are being warned not to cycle drunk on Father’s Day

What about airports?

German airports are also expecting a rush of passengers this week. 

From Wednesday until Sunday this week, around 77,000 passengers per day are expected at Berlin’s BER airport. On regular weekdays, between 55,000 and 65,000 passengers is the norm, while around 70,000 travellers pass through BER on the peak days of Friday and Sunday.

Passengers are urged to be at the airport at least two hours before check-in, and to keep an eye for any updates or changes to their trip from their airline. 

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