Germany Restricts Travel From The United Kingdom

Starting from midnight on Sunday, the German Government is banning all but essential travel from the United Kingdom amid concerns that a variant of COVID-19 first detected in India is circulating throughout the British population. On Friday, Germany’s Ministry of Public Health declared Great Britain and Northern Ireland a virus variant region.

British Airways
People arriving in Germany from the UK must self-isolate for 14 days. Photo: Getty Images.

Only German citizens or people holding resident status will be allowed to enter Germany from the United Kingdom from midnight tonight. With the UK now classed as a coronavirus variant zone, anyone entering Germany from the UK must prove a negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival, or a rapid antigen test that was taken within 24 hours. These rules also apply to people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Germany wants to play it safe

As of Thursday, the UK has reported 3,424 cases of the B.1.617 Indian variant that is believed to be a more virulent strain that is more contagious than other variants. The World Health Organization has called B.1.617 a mutation of concern despite having limited scientific knowledge of how transmissible it is.

When speaking about the quarantine decision newswire service Reuters quotes a German government source as saying:

“We want to play it safe during this important phase of the vaccination campaign; the entry of problematic mutations must be avoided as far as possible.”

Is the Indian variant more deadly?

Earlier in the pandemic, the big worry was the spread of the highly contagious and deadly B.1.1.7UK or Kent variant, which surged in the UK during December and is now the dominant strain of the virus in the United States. And it is not just the Kent and Indian variants that have health officials concerned, with the South Africa variant B.1.351 and Braziliant variant P.1 also present in the UK.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport - First Week Of Operation
People arriving on flights from the UK will be allowed to transit through German Airports but must remain in the transit area. Photo: Getty Images

There is no evidence to suggest that the Indian or other mutations are more deadly than the original strain. The big worry, however, is that the variants are more easily transmissible. This means a greater risk of people becoming infected and overwhelming the health system. As with the original version of COVID-19, the risk of getting severely ill is highest for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

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Vaccine rollout

When it comes to getting its citizens vaccinated, the UK has done a stellar job, with 37 million or 56% of the population having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. UK Health Minister Matt Hancock announced on Saturday that people over 32 could now book an appointment to get vaccinated.

Vaccinations in Germany got off to a much slower start due to the European Union waiting too long to secure vaccine doses from manufacturers. The pace has now picked up, allowing German cafes, bars, restaurants, and beer gardens to open outdoors after months of closure.

The good news about fighting the variants is that a study done by Public Health England found that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are equally effective against the Indian variant after receiving two doses.

Matt Hancock
The United Kingdom. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is confident that the UK is on the right track. Photo: Pippa Fowles via Flickr

When speaking with the BBC Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said the findings made him “increasingly confident” that the government was on track to open up entirely from June 21.

In complete contrast to Germany, Spain announced on Friday that it was open for vaccinated British tourists and did not require them to present a negative PCR test. With this in mind and with other European summer holiday destinations eager to attract British tourists, it leads me to believe that Germany’s cautiousness will be short-lived.

What do you think about Germany restricting travel from the UK? Please tell us what you think in the comments.