Coronavirus: Germany lifts travel restrictions for 31 countries, including UK

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 03: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks to the press about travel restrictions in Europe in front of the Federal Foreign Office on June 03, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Koehler/Photothek via Getty Images)

German foreign minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday announced that the country will lift its travel restrictions for 31 countries on 15 June.

As well as allowing its citizens to travel to 26 EU member states, Germany will also lift its warning for Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the UK.

However, Maas said that the government does not recommend travel to the UK while the country still has a 14-day quarantine period in place.

“I realise that this decision will raise great hopes and expectations, but let me say that travel warnings are not travel bans — and travel advisories are not invitations to travel,” Maas said.

Meanwhile, the US is not on the list of places Germans can now go to right now and existing travel restrictions remain in place.

Europe’s largest economy shut its borders to most of its neighbours in the middle of March, meaning only essential goods vehicles and commuters could cross.

That same week, on 16 March, German chancellor Angela Merkel announced national lockdowns, as the federal government in Berlin agreed with the 16 states that all commercial and social life must be shuttered to contain the virus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Early testing and swift lockdowns prevented 'up to 100,000 deaths' in Germany

At the time of the shutdown, Germany had only 4,800 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and around 10 deaths from COVID-19. Two-and-a-half months later, the comparatively low number of deaths — some 8,576 as of today — points to the effectiveness of the swift lockdown.

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Germany’s leading virologist, Christian Drosten, has attributed the relatively low death toll to the fact that his team at the Charité hospital in Berlin was developing a coronavirus test in January already, and clinics were well-armed to start mass testing early on in the outbreak.  

The German foreign minister said today that what were previously “travel restrictions,” will now be replaced with “travel advice,” meaning that the government will issue guidance on whether or not it is safe to travel to a certain country on an individual, case-by-case basis.

Maas also noted that travel warnings could be reintroduced in the future if new coronavirus infections in a particular country surpass 50 per 100,000 people in the space of one week.