Germany eases quarantine rules for summer travel: What you need to know
Travelling within Europe was made easier this week, after Germany relaxed its quarantine rules for arriving passengers who have been vaccinated, recovered from coronavirus, or can show a recent negative test. Here’s an overview of the new rules.
What are Germany’s new quarantine and test rules for travellers?
As of Thursday, May 13, new nationwide rules apply to those returning to Germany from risk areas abroad, a definition which includes some popular holiday destinations like Italy, Spain and Greece.
As well as returning freedoms to vaccinated and recovered individuals, the new regulation is also intended to make travelling within Europe easier this summer, for example for parents travelling with unvaccinated children.
Key to understanding the new rules is the way the Robert Koch Institute classifies different countries abroad, ascribing them one of three different “risk statuses”:
- Risk areas: Areas with a particularly increased risk of infection
- High-incidence areas: Areas with a particularly high number of cases
- Areas of variant concern: Areas with widespread occurrence of COVID-19 variants of concern
From Thursday, May 13, the following rules apply nationwide:
For vaccinated / recovered people
Anyone who has been fully vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19 is no longer subject to quarantine requirements if they are returning from a risk or a high-incidence area.
However, if they are returning from a virus variant area such as India, South Africa or Brazil, they will still need to present a negative test before being allowed to travel to Germany. They will also be required to quarantine at home for 14 days, a period that cannot be shortened with a negative test.
Only those who have been inoculated with a vaccine currently approved by the EU - including the BioNTech / Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines - will be considered vaccinated, and the second vaccination must have been administered at least two weeks prior to travelling.
You can prove you have recovered from coronavirus by presenting a negative PCR test that is at least 28 days old.
For unvaccinated people
As Angela Merkel promised, the rules are also being eased for unvaccinated travellers as well. Accordingly, unvaccinated travellers (aged six and above) returning from risk areas can avoid the quarantine obligation if they can prove that they have recently tested negative for the virus. This can be an antigen test that is no more than 48 hours old, or a PCR test that is no more than 72 hours old.
It will be possible to upload proof of testing to the digital entry registration system, which all travellers from risk areas must fill out before arriving in Germany.
However, the old rules - under which all travellers were required to self-isolate upon arrival and wait at least five days before taking a coronavirus test to release themselves from quarantine - will still apply to unvaccinated arrivals coming from high incidence areas, which currently includes neighbouring France. Arrivals from areas of variant concern will also have to quarantine for 14 days, with no early release option.
Test before air travel rules still apply
The government has also extended the general test requirement for passengers arriving by air, meaning that everyone who intends to travel to a German airport - regardless of whether they have been in a risk area or not - must present a negative test before being allowed to depart. This does not apply to vaccinated or recovered passengers.
“Signal of confidence”
The German Travel Association described the change as a “signal of confidence” that opened up a positive perspective for holidaymakers and travel companies. “So even those who have not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated have the opportunity to travel without quarantine,” said the Association’s President, Norbert Fiebig.
On the other hand, SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach urged caution: “The numbers are developing very positively. Nothing stands in the way of a relaxed summer with significant easing, if we are not careless now,” he told the Rheinische Post. “However, to prevent a fourth wave in the autumn, we need to take precautions, especially for those returning from holidays.”