Spain, Portugal and USA added to Germany’s ‘high risk’ list

Travellers entering Germany from Spain, Portugal or the United States of America will be subject to stricter travel rules from December 25th.

People queue for booster jabs in Barcelona, Spain, on December 15th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire | Paco Freire

In an announcement made on Thursday evening, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute revealed that the three countries – along with Finland, Cyprus and Monaco – would all be upgraded to the high risk category.

The changes mean that anyone arriving from these countries after Christmas will have to fill in a digital entry form and upload proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test if they are over the age of six.

Unvaccinated people will also have to quarantine for ten days – or five if they can present a negative test on the fifth day of self-isolation. 

Since the USA is a non-EU country, only vaccinated people will be allowed to travel from America to Germany while the country remains on the high-risk list.

Omicron has rapidly taken over as the dominant variant in United States, accounting for around 75 percent of confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

However – unlike in the case of the UK – the Robert Koch Institute has opted to place the country on the ‘high risk’ rather than ‘virus variant’ list. 

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

Meanwhile, in Spain, Covid infections have been rising rapidly in recent days. 

According to the Spanish Ministry of Health, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections stood at 563 per 100,000 people on Thursday evening –  almost 80 more than the previous day.

However, since almost 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and many people have already received a booster jab, the situation in the hospitals is currently much less dramatic than in Germany.

As of Thursday, around 1,515 were in intensive care in Spain, occupying around 16 percent of the available beds. The regional differences were large, however. While in Extremadura only a two percent of intensive care beds were occupied by Covid patients, in Catalonia it was 32 percent.

Within one day, 82 Covid-related deaths were registered by the authorities.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are the rules for entering Germany this Christmas and New Year?

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Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

With the EU changing its Covid recommendations for flights, there is some confusion around whether people boarding a plane in Germany will still need to wear a mask. Here's what we know so far.

Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

As of Monday, the aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC no longer recommend mandatory Covid masks in airports and on planes.

However, if masks are compulsory at the point of departure or destination, this should continue to apply in aircraft as well, they say.

So, what does this mean for passengers boarding flights in Germany? At the moment, not very much at all. 

In Germany, the Infection Protection Act still stipulates that masks have to be worn on long-distance trains and planes. Masks are also compulsory on local public transport.

The previous weeks have seen Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) come out in favour of scrapping compulsory masks – especially on flights.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done to change the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

What are the current rules on flights? 

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, masks are compulsory on all flights taking off or landing in Germany.

FFP2 or medical masks must be worn when boarding and disembarking and throughout the flight, though they can be removed when eating and drinking.

Children under the age of six are exempt from the mask-wearing requirement. 

The ministry has argued that the obligation to wear masks also complies with the new EU recommendations. 

What are the rules acros the EU? 

In general, the relaxed EU recommendation does not mean that masks are no longer compulsory on all flights. However, many countries have kept this measure in place as a simple way to reduce infection. 

Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, published a list of 14 EU countries in which national laws continue to require the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid.

Besides Germany, popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are included on the list. 

In other EU countries, the airline said it would be dropping mandatory masks on flights, adding that it “welcomed” the relaxed recommendations from the EU health authorities.  

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?