Germany Extends Travel Warning Outside Europe Through August
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government extended a travel warning for nations outside Europe through the end of August and urged Germans to avoid non-essential travel to the U.K. even as it removes temporary checks on some of its borders.
Germany will maintain a three-month-old warning against travel for tourists to countries outside the European Union, the passport-free Schengen area and the U.K., Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday in an emailed statement after the cabinet approved the measure.
But the U.K., which exited the EU this year and is being hit hard by the pandemic, was singled out even as it was excluded from the general warning. Germans are “urgently” warned to avoid traveling to Britain, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
At the same time, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that police will immediately begin scaling back checks on arrivals from Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy, introduced to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and that they will be lifted completely by June 15. Controls on flight arrivals from Spain will be maintained until June 21, he said.
“With this decision, there is no longer a general requirement for a compelling reason to enter Germany from other EU states,” Seehofer’s ministry said in an emailed statement, adding that this also includes non-EU members Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and the U.K.
“I am very pleased that the evolution of the virus allows us to do without these border controls,” Seehofer told reporters in Berlin. “If a large majority of the population here, and also internationally, respects distancing rules then I’m optimistic that we won’t have to reinstate them.”
European nations are attempting to revive travel and commerce on the continent after lockdowns brought economic activity to an almost complete halt.
Other countries are also easing back on virus-related restrictions. Austria is lifting the requirement to have tested negative or undergo a two-week, self-isolation for 31 more countries on June 16, leaving them in place only for Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the U.K., Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna Wednesday.
Among the borders to be opened next week is that with Italy, the only Austrian neighbor to which they were still closed. A travel warning for the Lombardy region, the epicenter of the Italian outbreak, remains in place.
Schallenberg cautioned that despite the border openings, the fight against the virus isn’t over and travelers still need to be careful. “When you pack your bags, don’t forget your common sense,” he said.
Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday approved last week’s decision to replace the broad travel warning in Europe with individual travel advisories based on the spread of the virus. Further decisions, including how long to extend restrictions on travelers from outside Europe, will be put on hold pending directives from the European Commission.
The EU plans a “gradual and partial” easing of a ban on most travel to the bloc as of July 1, a top official said Wednesday.
Germany’s shift away from an across-the-board travel warning, put in place in March as the pandemic was sweeping across Europe, was part of an attempt to move back toward normality even as authorities continue to urge caution and warn of a second wave of infections.
Maas said that conditions are not yet in place for “unlimited travel without incalculable risks.”
“We cannot and will not risk Germans becoming stranded abroad again or that returning tourists bring the virus to Germany undetected,” Maas said. His ministry oversaw the return of thousands of Germans stranded abroad as borders began to close in March.
It will depend on the evolution of the virus outbreak when travel to nations like Turkey, and destinations including Africa, South East Asia and the Americas will be possible again, Maas added.
“That’s why we will continually reassess the travel warning between now and September, always with the safety of travelers as the central criteria,” he said.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.