Germany bans most travel from virus variants


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Germany will from Saturday ban most travelers from countries affected by new, more contagious coronavirus variants to prevent an increase in the number of infections, the government said on Friday.

The move, which runs until February 17, is necessary “to protect the people of Germany and to limit the entry and rapid spread of the new virus variants”, according to a government decree from AFP.

The affected countries are the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil and South Africa, as well as the southern African kingdoms of Lesotho and Eswatini.

Entry restrictions include arrivals by air, bus, rail and sea, but several exemptions will be granted.

Germans and other citizens living in Germany may return, while passenger transport and freight traffic will not be affected.

The exceptions also include the entry of medical workers and people into other important jobs.

The emergence of virus mutations in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, which are considered more contagious than the original strain, has given rise to concern at a time when many nations are struggling to eradicate the pandemic.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said earlier this week that he wanted to reduce flights to Germany to “almost zero”.

The European Union is still opposed to a comprehensive travel ban or the closure of national borders, despite some members seeking tougher action.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that all non-essential travel “should be strongly discouraged”.

Portugal, which has strong air links with Brazil, has seen an explosion in cases and decided on Thursday to limit foreign travel for two weeks.

Belgium has taken a similar step and imposed a ban until 1 March.

Germany did relatively well with the first coronavirus wave last spring but has been hit hard by one second wave in recent months.

Europe’s largest economy renewed the restrictions in November, closing bars and restaurants as well as cultural and leisure facilities.

The measures were further tightened in December, and schools and non-essential shops were also ordered to close. The current shutdowns are set to be at least until mid-February.

The curbs seem to pay off, and the number of daily infections is declining even though the number of deaths every 24 hours is still high.

The country has registered over two million cases and more than 55,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Follow the latest news on coronavirus (COVID-19)

© 2021 AFP

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