SHARE
COPY LINK

TRAVEL NEWS

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. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVEL NEWS

UPDATE: When will Germany’s €49 ticket start?

Germany announced a €49 monthly ticket for local and regional public transport earlier this month, but the hoped-for launch date of January 2023 looks increasingly unlikely.

UPDATE: When will Germany's €49 ticket start?

Following the popularity of the €9 train ticket over the summer, the German federal and state governments finally agreed on a successor offer at the beginning of November.

The travel card – dubbed the “Deutschlandticket” – will cost €49 and enable people to travel on regional trains, trams and buses up and down the country.

There had been hopes that the discount travel offer would start up in January 2023, but that now seems very unlikely.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s €49 ticket

Martin Burkert, Head of the German Rail and Transport Union (EVG) now expects the €49 ticket to be introduced in the spring.

“From our point of view, it seems realistic to introduce the Deutschlandticket on April 1st, because some implementation issues are still unresolved”, Burkert told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Monday. The Association of German Transport Companies, on the other hand, said on Wednesday that they believe the beginning of May will be a more realistic start date.

The federal and state transport ministers have set their sights on an April deadline, but this depends on whether funding and technical issues can be sorted out by then. In short, the only thing that seems clear regarding the start date is that it will be launched at some point in 2023. 

Why the delay?

Financing for the ticket continues to cause disagreements between the federal and state governments and, from the point of view of the transport companies, financing issues are also still open.

The federal government has agreed to stump up €1.5 billion for the new ticket, which the states will match out of their own budgets. That brings the total funding for the offer up to €3 billion. 

But according to Bremen’s transport minister Maike Schaefer, the actual cost of the ticket is likely to be closer to €4.7 billion – especially during the initial implementation phase – leaving a €1.7 billion hole in finances.

Transport companies are concerned that it will fall to them to take the financial hit if the government doesn’t provide enough funding. They say this will be impossible for them to shoulder. 

Burkert from EVG is calling on the federal government to provide more than the €1.5 billion originally earmarked for the ticket if necessary.

“Six months after the launch of the Deutschlandticket at the latest, the federal government must evaluate the costs incurred to date with the states and, if necessary, provide additional funding,” he said. 

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bahn has warned that the network is not prepared to cope with extra demand. 

Berthold Huber, the member of the Deutsche Bahn Board of Management responsible for infrastructure, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a big part of the problem is the network is “structurally outdated” and its “susceptibility to faults is increasing.” 

Accordingly, Huber said that there is currently “no room for additional trains in regional traffic around the major hub stations” and, while adding more seats on trains could be a short terms solution, “here, too, you run up against limits,” Huber said.

So, what now? 

Well, it seems that the federal states are happy to pay half of whatever the ticket actually costs – but so far, the federal government has been slow to make the same offer.

With the two crucial ministries – the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry – headed up by politicians from the liberal FDP, environment groups are accusing the party of blocking the ticket by proxy. 

According to Jürgen Resch, the director of German Environment Aid, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Transport Minister Volker Wissing are deliberately withholding the necessary financial support for the states.

Wissing has also come under fire from the opposition CDU/CSU parties after failing to turn up to a transport committee meeting on Wednesday. 

The conservatives had narrowly failed in a motion to summon the minister to the meeting and demand a report on the progress of the €49 ticket.

“The members of the Bundestag have many unanswered questions and time is pressing,” said CDU transport politician Thomas Bareiß, adding that the ticket had falling victim to a “false start”. 

SHOW COMMENTS