Berlin (dpa) – Due to the spread of the corona variant, which was first discovered in India, the federal government classifies Great Britain as a virus variant area from Sunday.
The Robert Koch Institute announced this on Friday. This drastically limits access from the UK to Germany.
As of Sunday, airlines, bus and train companies are only allowed to transport German nationals or people living in Germany to Germany. Those entering the country are subject to a two-week quarantine requirement, which cannot be shortened by negative tests.
For France, Croatia and Slovenia, on the other hand, the general quarantine obligation of 5 to 10 days has been lifted due to the sharp drop in the number of infections. The three EU countries, as well as Oman, Mongolia and Andorra, will be downgraded from the high-incidence area to the normal risk area on Sunday. Slovakia, Finland, Romania, San Marino and Jamaica, as well as individual regions in Spain and Ireland, have been completely removed from the list of risk areas.
The UK is the first country in Europe to have relapsed to virus variant area in some time. Only eleven countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America currently fall into this highest-risk category.
The Indian virus variant B.1.617.2 is considered to be highly contagious and has been a major contributor to the explosion in the number of infections in India in recent months. In the UK, more than 3,400 cases of the variant have been confirmed as of May 19. The main focus is on the towns of Blackburn and Bolton in Central England and a district in West London. However, there are individual “clusters” in other areas as well, said the Public Health England health authority.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there is not yet enough data on the Indian variant. RKI chairman Lothar Wieler said in Berlin on Friday that a significantly higher transferability and probably a slightly reduced vaccination protection is assumed. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) expressed concern about Britain. The variant must be prevented from spreading in Germany, he said before it was classified as a virus variant region.
Great Britain is now seen as a model of success when it comes to fighting the corona pandemic. A hard lockdown and high vaccination coverage had pushed infection rates so far that the federal government temporarily removed the country from the list of corona risk areas. In the past week, however, it was again classified in the lowest risk category due to the Indian virus variant. From Sunday, the UK will return to the highest risk level.
So far the UK government has been confident in getting the spread under control. Test capacities were significantly increased in the affected areas. In addition, everyone over the age of 18 can be vaccinated there and mobile vaccination centers are in use. Nationally, only people 34 and older are eligible for a dose.
Recently, a slight increase in the number of corona patients in clinics was reported in Bolton and Blackburn. However, Health Minister Matt Hancock stressed that the majority had not yet been vaccinated against Corona, although those affected were entitled to it. Government officials were convinced the vaccinations also protected against the variant.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was sharply criticized that the government only declared India a risk area after weeks and placed it on a “red list” for travel. Those returning from such “red” countries must check into a quarantine hotel at their own expense for ten days immediately upon arrival. Johnson did not want to risk a visit to India scheduled for the end of April, but was eventually canceled, in which he wanted to discuss a free trade agreement. That is why the South Asian country was only placed on the “red list” weeks after neighboring states Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Media reported that despite the classification, several direct flights from India land in the UK every day. Direct flights from other “red” countries such as Brazil or South Africa are prohibited. The government defended that the people entering the country were only British and Irish, or people living in Britain. With direct access, the surveillance of the hotel quarantine is more secure. However, the media pointed out that at passport control travelers from India waited for hours at the airport alongside travelers from other, safer countries.
In addition to Great Britain, the federal government is upgrading only three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on the corona risk list: Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have been declared high-incidence areas due to the increasing number of infections, and St.