Germany’s health agency said on Monday it would lift a ban on most travellers from the UK, India and three other countries hit by the Delta variant of Covid-19.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said India, Nepal, Russia, Portugal and the UK, currently listed as so-called virus variant countries, would be reclassified from Wednesday as “high-incidence areas".
The change eases a ban on entry for travellers who are not German residents or citizens, instead meaning anyone will be able to enter as long as they observe quarantine and testing rules.
Germany introduced its “virus variant country" travel category in a bid to stop new coronavirus variants that have not yet spread widely on home soil.
But Health Minister Jens Spahn said last week that the Delta variant was fast becoming dominant in Germany, meaning that bans on most travellers from countries hit by that variant may be lifted.
Given the increasing spread of Delta, which was first detected in India, and research suggesting vaccines are effective against it, “we will look at the situation in the next few days", Spahn said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also hinted at a potential softening in Germany’s stance towards travellers from Britain during a visit to London on Friday.
Last month, Merkel had called for tough restrictions, including longer quarantine, for people travelling from Britain, where the Delta variant has caused a surge in cases.
But she indicated that the stance could soften as travel advice was reviewed.
“We think that in the foreseeable future, those who have received double jabs will… be able to travel again, without having to go into quarantine," she said.
Only citizens and residents of Germany are permitted to enter from a variant country and are subject to a two-week quarantine, regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated or can provide a negative Covid-19 test.
By contrast, anyone can enter from a high-incidence country as long as they provide a negative test on arrival. They must in principle enter a 10-day quarantine but can end it after five days with another negative test. Travellers from high-incidence areas are also exempt from quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated.
Countries where variants other than Delta are circulating, such as Brazil and South Africa, remain in the variant category.
Despite the rising share of the Delta variant, the overall incidence in Germany has been steadily declining in recent weeks.
The RKI on Monday reported 212 new cases in the past 24 hours and an incidence rate of five new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days.