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German Health Ministry set to end quarantine for child travellers

After receiving criticism for being the only EU country to impose quarantine on children returning from abroad, Germany's health ministry has confirmed it will ease its Covid rules for kids.

German Health Ministry set to end quarantine for child travellers
Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, answers questions at a press conference in February. Photo: dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“Children have had to cope with a lot in this pandemic. That’s why we are relaxing entry requirements at a time when the current Omicron wave has passed its zenith,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Monday.

“Travel for families will be easier as a result. But they should still be cautious while on vacation,” he added.

Currently, children under the age of 12 who are not vaccinated and who return from a country classified as ‘high risk’ need to go into quarantine for at least five days.

The entire EU with the exception of Spain and Ireland is classified as ‘high risk’ at the moment due to prevalence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

At the beginning of Feburary, the EU recommended exempting young children from quarantine rules.

Germany is the only EU member still to require all unvaccinated children under 12 to go into self-isolation. Opposition politicians had criticized the government for a rule which they said put undue stress on families.

Lauterbach is to propose the rule change to cabinet on Wednesday and it is expected to come into force on March 4th.

Daniel Caspary, a member of the European parliament for the CDU, told Bild newspaper that the change was coming too late.

“Right now, many families with young children are on vacation. It would help these families a lot if the rule change were to be implemented immediately,” Caspary said.

Lauterbach also confirmed that the definition of a high-risk country would soon change to only include places where a Covid variant more deadly than Omicron was dominant.

SEE ALSO: What it’s like travelling to Germany from the USA in the Covid era

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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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