Spain, Portugal and USA added to Germany’s ‘high risk’ list

Travellers entering Germany from Spain, Portugal or the United States of America will be subject to stricter travel rules from December 25th.

People queue for booster jabs in Barcelona, Spain, on December 15th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire | Paco Freire

In an announcement made on Thursday evening, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute revealed that the three countries – along with Finland, Cyprus and Monaco – would all be upgraded to the high risk category.

The changes mean that anyone arriving from these countries after Christmas will have to fill in a digital entry form and upload proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test if they are over the age of six.

Unvaccinated people will also have to quarantine for ten days – or five if they can present a negative test on the fifth day of self-isolation. 

Since the USA is a non-EU country, only vaccinated people will be allowed to travel from America to Germany while the country remains on the high-risk list.

Omicron has rapidly taken over as the dominant variant in United States, accounting for around 75 percent of confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

However – unlike in the case of the UK – the Robert Koch Institute has opted to place the country on the ‘high risk’ rather than ‘virus variant’ list. 

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Germany adds UK to ‘virus variant’ risk list

Meanwhile, in Spain, Covid infections have been rising rapidly in recent days. 

According to the Spanish Ministry of Health, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections stood at 563 per 100,000 people on Thursday evening –  almost 80 more than the previous day.

However, since almost 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and many people have already received a booster jab, the situation in the hospitals is currently much less dramatic than in Germany.

As of Thursday, around 1,515 were in intensive care in Spain, occupying around 16 percent of the available beds. The regional differences were large, however. While in Extremadura only a two percent of intensive care beds were occupied by Covid patients, in Catalonia it was 32 percent.

Within one day, 82 Covid-related deaths were registered by the authorities.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are the rules for entering Germany this Christmas and New Year?

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”