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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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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?