Will Germany block travel from China amid soaring Covid infections?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Will Germany block travel from China amid soaring Covid infections?
A plane from the Chinese-owned Hainan Airlines docks in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

After years of following a strict 'no Covid' policy, China is in the grip of a massive - and deadly - Covid wave. Now German politicians are calling for a ban on travel between the two countries. Will it happen?


What's going on?

Back in December 2019, the discovery of the Covid-19 virus in Wuhan changed the course of history. While the virus rapidly spread around the globe, governments put their economies and people's lives on shutdown to stem the wave of infections. More recently, however, most countries around the world have eased - or relinquished - their pandemic measures entirely.

But back in Wuhan and across China, a strict 'zero Covid' policy has been in place almost since the outset, as the government tried to eliminate the virus from their shores. The years of tough restrictions have sent economic shockwaves across the world and severely impacted the supply of goods from China, but have also led to one of the lowest Covid death rates in the world.

READ ALSO: Germany toughens China travel warning over 'invasive' Covid tests


In recent months, however, there has been an outpouring of discontent. Then, following a wave of protests, China's Covid restrictions were relaxed - but with much of the country's 1.4 billion population unvaccinated and as-yet unexposed to the virus, the situation has rapidly developed into a crisis.

Currently, experts estimate that China is seeing around four million new infections per day. An overwhelmed healthcare system has meant that thousands of those - an estimated 5,000 per day - have also lost their lives. 

In Germany and elsewhere, there are worries that the rampant spread of infection could give rise to new and highly dangerous mutations. That's prompted some parliamentarians to start calling for an immediate travel ban for people arriving from China. 

Could travel between Germany and China be put on hold?

For the opposition CDU, that's the ideal scenario. Speaking to RND on Friday, Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, said Germany should put an immediate halt to all flights from China. 

"The exploding Covid numbers in China caused by the Chinese government's misguided coronavirus policy threaten the whole world with a new wave of infections," he said. "We must not repeat the mistake of three years ago and should immediately stop all flight connections to and from China."

Flights should only be resumed once it's clear that no dangerous mutations are present in the country, Hardt added. 

He also urged the German government to renew its offer of delivering mRNA vaccines to China - an offer that has so far been rejected. "The arrogance of President Xi Jinping is almost limitless," he said. "His hubris is costing lives in his own country every day."

But members of the governing coalition have sounded a more cautious note. 

Expressing concern about the potential development of new mutations in China, Green Party health spokesperson Janosch Dahmen urged people to continue wearing masks indoors. 

"Not only because of the development in China, but also because of the other respiratory diseases in Germany, it is important that we use the mask much more again indoors - completely regardless of what the rules are," he told RND.

Citizens of China queue up at a test centre in Beijing.

Chinese residents queue up at a test centre in Beijing. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Andy Wong

Nevertheless, the government does still have the power to ban travel from any areas it classifies as a "virus variant area." Due to Omicron's dominance globally, there are currently no countries on the virus variant list, but any non-EU country that gets placed on it is subject to an effective travel ban. Those who do have exceptional reasons for travelling have to present a negative PCR test and undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.

Can I travel to China at the moment?

Not for tourist purposes. Currently only foreigners with a valid work permit or visa are able to enter the country, and those that do must present a negative PCR test and quarantine for at least 10 days.

Citizens can continue to travel home as normal but will also be required to comply with these strict quarantine and testing rules.

Similarly, people who want to travel from China to Germany currently need a compelling reason to do so, which the Foreign Ministry says is "due to the principle of reciprocity." 

Those who are able to travel can still find some direct flights between China and Germany, normally operated by Chinese airlines (e.g. Air China, China Eastern) and Lufthansa. However, due to Covid travel restrictions, the number of flights is still limited, so booking in advance is recommended. 

READ ALSO: Germany drops Covid entry restrictions for non-EU travellers



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