Germany has joined a growing number of European countries to suspend air travel links with the UK over fears of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus. Here’s what it all means for you.
What is going on exactly?
After British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said a new coronavirus strain was “out of control” in parts of the UK, European countries struggling to deal with their own virus spread reacted with alarm and began suspending travel to Britain.
German authorities issued an emergency decree to ban flights from the UK to Germany from midnight on Sunday December 20th (Berlin time).
The ban will be last until at least December 31st 2020. It was introduced due to concerns over the mutation of coronavirus in the UK.
Who does it affect?
Everyone who wants to, or planned to, travel by plane from the UK to Germany. All flights are now cancelled. Anyone who planned to travel to Germany by sea or rail will also be affected by similar transport bans imposed by France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. These are:
- Repatriation flights of aeroplanes and their crews
- Postal, freight or empty flights
- Flights with medical personnel in the interest of public health
OK so what does the decree actually say about why this is happening?
The temporary ban on flights from the UK is being put in place „in order to protect the population of Germany“, the ruling by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure says.
It is needed to „limit the introduction and rapid spread“ of new virus strains.
„The global epidemiological situation with regard to the spread of infections with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to develop very dynamically,“ says the general decree published late Sunday.
„New viral variants (mutations) have been identified in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Both variants have not yet been detected in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The virus variant in the UK is, according to the British government, up to 70 percent more transmissible and has a 0.4 point higher reproduction rate (R), compared to the previously known variant of SARS-CoV-2, German authorities say.
They say this new virus variant is „spreading rapidly“ in the UK.
„It is already the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant in London and in other regions in the east and south-east of the UK. In parallel, a significant increase in the number of cases is being reported in these regions.
„This further increases the burden on local medical facilities.“
German authorities say that they want to avoid this situation in the Bundesrepublik, where they are already grappling with a high number of infections.
„The flight ban is therefore necessary to limit the risk of the mutated COVID-19 virus being introduced into the Federal Republic of Germany by air,“ says the decree.
What about travelling to the UK from Germany?
There is no mention of travel in the opposite direction in the decree. However, many flights have already been cancelled as airlines anticipate mass cancellations.
Keep in mind that Germany has been advising against travel to the UK for months due to the coronavirus situation in general.
German authorities are also urging people not to travel either within the country or abroad, unless it is essential.
How long will this ban last for?
Initially until New Year’s Eve, December 31st. It will be reviewed then and authorities will decide whether to extend the ban or lift it.
Is it causing disruption?
Yes. Britons who want to come back from the UK to Germany for Christmas are effectively stranded.
There’s also been chaos at the borders. Many Brits who flew in on the last flights from the UK to Germany on Sunday were held at airports and had to do a Covid-19 test.
According to Bild as of Monday lunchtime, at least 10 UK passengers in Germany are confirmed to have Covid-19.
The passengers were on board various planes that landed in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hanover and Dortmund on Sunday.
What can I do?
More information will likely become available in the coming days. If you would like to share your experience with us email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other practical things you can do is contact your airline and ask for a refund or ask to be rebooked on a new flight when it’s allowed.
Keep an eye on the latest information from authorities. We’ll also publish updates as they become available.
What is Germany saying about the new strain?
Top virologist Christian Drosten said he believed the new strain had already spilled over into the country.
„I think it’s already in Germany,“ Drosten told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday morning.
„We now know, it is already in Italy, in Holland, in Belgium, in Denmark – even in Australia. Why shouldn’t it be in Germany?“
At the same time, the virologist warned against people becoming too alarmed.
With regard to the danger posed by the virus variant, Drosten said he wasn’t too worried, but there was still a lack of information.
„I am not that concerned about it at the moment,“ he said.
Drosten also expressed doubts about the assumption that the new variant of the virus is up to 70 per cent more contagious than the previously known form.
Is there anything else to worry about?
Yes, January 1st. This is the date that the Brexit transition period ends and the UK is therefore outside the European Bloc.
British people who want to move to Germany under the Withdrawal Agreement also have a deadline of December 31st to be resident in Germany, otherwise they face the considerably more difficult and complicated rules.