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Germany mulls plans to cut international air travel "to almost zero"

Germany mulls plans to cut international air travel "to almost zero"

Germany mulls plans to cut international air travel "to almost zero"

To help slow the spread of more infectious strains of COVID-19, the federal government is examining possible further restrictions on cross-border travel, with the aim of reducing air traffic to “almost zero”. 

“Now is not the time to travel,” says Merkel

“The danger from the numerous virus mutations forces us to consider drastic measures,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Bild on Tuesday. “That includes significantly stricter border checks, especially at the borders of high-risk areas, but also reducing air travel to Germany to almost zero, as Israel is currently doing.”

The day before, Chancellor Angela Merkel had announced during an internal CDU / CSU meeting that she intended to make travel as unattractive as possible. According to AFP, she emphasised once again on Tuesday that people had a right to expect that the government would take “certain precautions at the border”. She was also quoted as saying, “Everyone understands that now is not the time to travel.” 

This was a sentiment echoed by Seehofer. “The people in Germany who accept the tough restrictions expect us to protect them as best we can from an explosion in infection numbers,” the interior minister said. Both Merkel and Seehofer have emphasised that they are not planning to impose travel bans, but rather to further discourage tourist trips to areas with high incidence rates. 

Scientists call for Europe-wide travel restrictions

In March 2020, Seehofer temporarily ordered stationary controls at several sections of Germany’s border. These controls ended on June 15. Currently, anyone who wants to travel to Germany from areas with particularly high numbers of infections, or from so-called “corona mutation areas” (which currently include Brazil, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa and the United Kingdom) must present proof of a negative coronavirus test before being allowed to travel. 

But scientists are insisting that only a Europe-wide plan can help slow the spread of coronavirus variants. Sandra Ciesek, a virologist from Frankfurt, is one of those calling for uniform regulations: “We have to try to delay the spread of the variants in Germany,” she said in her NDR podcast Coronavirus Update. “That only works across Europe, because we don’t live in isolation on an island.” 

Christan Drosten, head of virology at the Berlin Charité hospital, described the proposal of new travel restrictions as “sensible from a scientific point of view.” So long as the government imposes restrictions to curb the spread of the virus internally, he said, it stands to reason that the back door should not be left open to allow the virus in from the outside.

Travel industry blames slow vaccine rollout

Predictably, however, the travel industry is not impressed by the government’s new plans. The German Travel Association (DRV) said that tourism travel had already come to an almost complete standstill and that the government “should therefore not now concentrate on further restricting our already severely limited freedom to travel.” Instead, the DRV pointed the finger of blame to “dramatic deficits” in Germany’s vaccination programme and testing concepts. 

The pro-business FDP party struck a similar note: “No flight or travel bans can help in the current situation, especially since everyone has to get tested anyway,” said FDP vice chairman Wolfgang Kubicki. He emphasised that vaccinations are “the most reliable and only way out of this pandemic,” accusing the government of replacing “real solutions with tokenism.” 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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