Berlin / Brussels (dpa) – Due to the particularly high number of corona infections, the federal government has for the first time classified more than 20 countries as high-risk areas with stricter access rules.
As the Robert Koch Institute announced on its website on Friday, this includes the neighboring country of the Czech Republic, the holiday countries Spain, Portugal and Egypt, as well as the US and Israel. For travelers from these countries with significantly higher numbers of infections than in Germany, a stricter test obligation will apply from Sunday and the exemption rules for quarantine can also be tightened by the federal states.
On Thursday, the European Union’s heads of state or government agreed to delay avoidable travel as much as possible due to the risk of new variants of the coronavirus, but to keep the borders open for goods and commuters. This included testing and quarantine obligations for people from “dark red zones” with very high numbers of corona cases. This category will be newly introduced at EU level. In Germany, a new admission regulation has been in force since 14 January, on the basis of which the high-risk areas have now been designated.
There are now three categories of corona risk areas:
– “Normal” risk areas: these are countries or regions above a limit value (also known as the incidence) of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days. This currently applies to almost all of Europe with the exception of individual areas in Greece, Finland, Norway, Austria and Denmark. More than 100 countries around the world are risk areas.
– “Areas with a high incidence”: these are countries with considerably more infections than in Germany. The limit value is an incidence of 200 (incidence in Germany: 115). However, under certain conditions, countries may also be classified under this mark as “high incidence areas”. In addition to the countries already mentioned, the following countries will fall into this category from Sunday: Albania, Andorra, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Iran, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Colombia, Kosovo, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Montenegro, North -Macedonia, Panama, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates.
– Virus variant areas: These are areas in which highly contagious variants of the coronavirus have occurred. So far the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Brazil have been included in this category.
Travelers from “normal” risk areas must be tested for Corona no later than 48 hours after entering Germany. In addition, they must be in quarantine for ten days, but can be released prematurely by a second negative test from day five. The difference between the high incidence areas and virus variant: The test should be performed no more than 48 hours before entry. In addition, the quarantine exception rules can be restricted. But that is a matter for the individual federal states.
With the new rules, foreign travel will become even less attractive than it already is. But that is also politically desirable. For example, if you want to travel from Berlin to Prague for a week for private reasons, you need to do the following:
– Corona test (PCR) before entering the Czech Republic or at the latest five days afterwards, but then quarantine until testing.
– Corona test (PCR) 48 hours or less before return to Germany.
– Ten days of quarantine in Germany, from which you can free yourself after five days with a third test.
The bottom line is that this means 5 to 15 days of quarantine and two to three tests, which in Germany you can hardly get for less than 50 euros for a week’s trip.
After the EU summit in Brussels, EU Council President Charles Michel pointed out the seriousness of the situation due to the new, more contagious virus variants first discovered in Great Britain and South Africa. They are fighting on two fronts: speeding up vaccinations in Europe and controlling the virus.
It was agreed to search for the virus mutations much more often. Borders in the EU must remain open to secure the transport of important goods and the EU internal market, Michel said. “There should be no undifferentiated travel bans.” But further travel restrictions may be needed.
Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, wants to propose an extension of the existing Corona traffic light map. That is why there will be a new category “dark red” for regions where the corona virus is very widespread. On the existing map, regions are currently marked in green, orange or red based on common criteria, depending on the contamination rate.
Von der Leyen said that in the future, people who wish to travel from the dark red zones within the EU must undergo a test before departure and quarantine after arrival. Travel that is not required should be strongly discouraged.
In the near future, people who have been vaccinated will not find it easier to travel. The 27 states want to work on a common vaccination certificate. However, the debate about possible related benefits was delayed.
Ultimately, the amenities and requirements for travelers are always in the hands of the EU states. The purpose of the common standards now planned is mainly to avoid different treatments in border areas: if the contamination situation is comparable, comparable measures must be taken.
Before the summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel had not completely ruled out border controls, saying, “If a country with an incidence perhaps twice as high as Germany opens all its stores while they are still closed here, then of course you have a problem.”