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EXPLAINED: How Germany removing the UK from virus variant list affects you

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) revealed recently that the United Kingdom and seven African nations was being removed from its virus variant list. Here's what it means for your travel plans.

Heathrow Airport
A sign urges passengers at Heathrow Airport to "Come Fly Again". Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PA Wire | David Parry

What’s going on? 

On December 30th the RKI announced that the UK would be coming off its virus variant list this week. 

From Tuesday, January 4th, the United Kingdom was downgraded from virus variant area to high-risk area, making it easier for Brits to return to their homes in Germany in the new year, and reopening the possibility of tourist travel between the two countries. 

With the highly transmissible Omicron variant taking hold in the UK in the run up to Christmas, Germany’s Foreign Office opted to place the country on its virus variant list on December 20th, effectively banning non-essential travel and imposing an obligatory two-week quarantine on all entrants from the UK.

However, with Omicron now spreading rapidly in Germany, authorities have concluded that it no longer makes sense to ban travel from the UK and the seven African nations currently on the virus variant list. 

Instead, the eight previous virus variant areas will join countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and the USA on the high-risk list and be subject to much looser travel rules. 

READ MORE: Germany to remove UK from virus variant list on Tuesday

I travelled before Tuesday or am already back in Germany. Do I still have to quarantine? 

Anyone who came back to Germany before Tuesday had to quarantine until midnight on Monday, when the country was officially removed from the virus variant list – unless, of course, your two weeks of self-isolation was up before that date.

From Tuesday, however, the rules switched to those of a high-risk area, meaning people who are vaccinated will be exempt from having to quarantine and can carry on as normal – if they submitted proof of being fully vaccinated or recovered during the online register process. 

For unvaccinated people, it gets a little more complicated. If you’re unvaccinated and have travelled from a high-risk area, you generally have to quarantine for 10 days, but this can be shortened to five with a negative test taken on the fifth day.

If you were in quarantine for five days or more by the time Tuesday rolled around, you can take a test and – provided it’s negative – end your quarantine immediately.

If you hadn’t quite done five days by January 4th, you’ll have to wait until day five to take your test and end quarantine. Or, if you don’t want to take the test, you’ll have to complete the full 10 days. 

What do I need to do before travelling? 

Once again, that all depends on whether you travelled before or after January 4th. If you travelled before, you had to follow all of the rules for returning from a virus variant area. 

That means filling in the Passenger Locator Form and submitting a negative PCR test before departure. Since non-essential travel was banned, you should also have had to prove that you lived in Germany and are returning home. Once in the country, you had to head straight to your accommodation and quarantine until at least Tuesday. 

If you travelled on or after Tuesday, you should still fill in a Passenger Locator Form and upload a negative test  (if unvaccinated) or proof of vaccination and recovery.

As we mentioned above, you’ll be exempt from the self-isolation requirement if you’re vaccinated against or have recently recovered from Covid. 

If not, you’ll need to quarantine for at least five days – or 10 without a further negative test. 

What else should I know?

Keep an eye on the situation because it can change quickly. We recommend checking with your airline before travel because they could have further requirements like a PCR test – even if Germany doesn’t require it. 

Keep up to date with Germany’s ‘virus variant’ and other ‘high risk’ countries by checking the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) list, which is updated regularly.

There are some exceptions to having to fill out the entry form, testing and quarantine. This German government page has detailed information on the exemptions in English.  

Member comments

  1. Here is a question, if anybody knows the answer.

    I’m British and Swedish living in Sweden. I drive to the UK to avoid planes and people. Can I still transit Germany to get to Holland? I’m triple vaccinated!


    1. Hi Darren, it largely depends on your vaccination status and resident status. If you are a Swedish resident then it’s no problem. If you are resident in UK then it’s okay if you are vaccinated but more restrictions apply if the UK is a virus variant country again. We’ll look into this in more detail.

      1. Hi Rachel,
        Thanks for your reply!
        I’ve got duel Swedish / British citizenship and I’ve had the booster shot. So fully vaccinated. I got a German friend to check. Even if you’ll only transiting Germany, you need to fill in the Digital entry form and upload your vaccination status. Yet on Germany own government pages I can find contraction to this.

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German Chancellor Scholz tests positive for Covid after Gulf tour

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has tested positive for the coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms after returning from a tour of the Gulf, his spokesman said Monday.

German Chancellor Scholz tests positive for Covid after Gulf tour

The 64-year-old Social Democrat is isolating in his apartment in the chancellery, and will attend meetings online, spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

At the weekend, he visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on a hunt for new energy sources after Russia cut gas supplies amid tensions over the Ukraine war.

He signed a deal Sunday for the UAE to supply natural gas and diesel to Germany.

READ ALSO: UAE to supply Germany with gas and diesel 

Meanwhile Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, also of the SPD, announced via Twitter on Monday that she had tested positive for Covid.