Germany loosens Omicron travel restrictions for UK, South Africa

 Tuesday, January 4, 2022 

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Germany ended its strict rules for travellers entering from a series of countries with particularly high rates of omicron infections. The nine countries, including Britain and South Africa — as well as several other southern African states — had been placed on the list of areas of variant concern in late 2021.

All the countries have been downgraded to the list of high-risk areas. While this category still places restrictions on travellers, these are lighter for vaccinated people.

The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) had already announced on Thursday that starting Tuesday, no more countries would be put on the variant concern list because of omicron.

The highly infectious variant was first recorded in southern Africa and quickly spread around the world.

The UK has been one of those countries worst hit by omicron, with cases soaring record highs. The high rate of infection has subsequently been recorded in several other countries, including Germany’s EU neighbours France and Denmark.

The restrictions for travellers entering Germany from countries on the list of areas of variant concern included mandatory 14-day quarantine — with no option of shortening it with proof of vaccination or negative test.

It also limited entry to German citizens or the country’s residents from areas of variant concern. Under the rules for travellers from high-risk areas, people who can show proof of vaccination do not need to isolate. Unvaccinated travellers need to quarantine for 10 days but can shorten it to five if they test negative.

Germany had previously brought down a surge in coronavirus cases in November and early December after implementing a series of restrictions aimed particularly at unvaccinated people.

However, cases have once again begun to climb, with the RKI recording a rise in the previous four days.

Although early reports suggest that the omicron variant has milder effects than previous forms of the virus, its highly contagious nature risks overwhelming health services.

Almost 40% of people in Germany have received a booster vaccine already, which data suggests offers increased protection. However, around 25% of people remain unvaccinated.

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