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Germany to remove UK from virus variant list on Tuesday

Germany announced Thursday it would lift in early January strict travel rules for people arriving from countries hardest hit by the Omicron coronavirus variant such as the UK.

London
The London skyline. Photo: picture alliance / Matt Crossick/PA Wire/dpa | Matt Crossick

All countries currently listed in the “virus variant” category, including the UK and several southern African nations, will be reclassified as “high risk” from January 4th, the Robert Koch Institute confirmed.

The change eases a ban on entry for travellers who are not German residents or citizens, instead allowing anyone to enter as long as they observe quarantine and testing rules.

It also means that those who are currently in quarantine after travelling from the UK will be able to end their self-isolation on Tuesday if they are fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people, meanwhile, will be able to end their quarantine with a negative test if they have been in isolation for five days or more on Tuesday.

Germany introduced its “virus variant” travel category in a bid to stop new coronavirus strains that have not yet spread widely on its territory.

Only citizens and residents of Germany are permitted to enter from an Omicron variant country and are subject to a two-week quarantine, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or can provide a negative Covid-19 test.

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

By contrast, anyone can enter from a high-risk country as long as they provide a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery on arrival.

Travellers from high-risk areas are exempt from quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated.

Germany has so far recorded 16,748 cases of Omicron but the real number is thought to be much higher due to delays in reporting over the Christmas period.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Wednesday that he expects a significant rise in the number of Omicron cases in Germany within “in a few weeks”.

READ ALSO: Can Brits travel from UK through France to other EU countries?

Italy and Canada added to ‘high risk’ list

As well as the downgraded UK and African nations, the Foreign Office plans to add four new countries to its high risk list over the weekend. 

From January 1st, Italy, Canada, San Merino and Malta will also be reclassified as high-risk countries. Since Canada is a non-EU country, this will mean only vaccinated Canadians will be able to travel to Germany in the New Year.

The four countries will join Spain, Portugal and the USA, which were added to the list on Christmas Day. 

Austria, which has seen a drop-off in infections after a nationwide lockdown in early December, was removed from the list over the festive weekend. 

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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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