Germans are in the midst of holiday fever following the widespread easing of coronavirus restrictions at home and abroad, again opening up the prospect of travel for a nation that views summer vacations as a fundamental human right.
A considerable improvement week after week since May in the incidence rate of the virus in the country, which stood at 22 per 100,000 on Thursday, a drop of 42% from last week, a vaccination campaign that was delayed in start but has accelerated, and loosening of the rules at holiday destinations such as Mallorca, has caused a boom in bookings.
The Foreign Ministry has in recent days removed the Balearic Island – the favorite destination of the Germans – Italy, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Switzerland from the list of high-risk regions. They are now among the top destinations for hundreds of thousands of Germans who plan to travel in the coming weeks, now regulations in both directions have been relaxed.
However, Denmark, France and Greece, also typical favorites, are among those still carrying a warning, although consumer experts have praised the fact that the caution associated with them meant it would be easier. for vacationers to get their money back if trips were to be canceled.
Germans traveling must have proof of a negative PCR test or rapid antigen test, or proof that they are fully vaccinated or have had coronavirus in the past six months. Those returning from an area with a variant of the virus – like the UK – or deemed to be at high risk – like Egypt – are still required to self-quarantine for 10 days upon their return.
The Foreign Ministry continues to advise against unnecessary travel abroad and medical experts have urged caution wherever travelers go, warning that the level of incidence may be lower than it has been since October, but that it is currently 10 times higher than it was in a year. since.
Virologists say an increase in cases at the end of the summer vacation is almost inevitable, in part due to the increased mobility and mixing into larger clusters that will take place, coupled with a drop in temperature around the fall. . But they hope that the wait for a vaccine for all by mid-August to September will stop an uncontrolled fourth wave. However, the decision to let the Germans travel remains a political gamble.
Most countries remain classified as “risk areas,” according to the government disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which has divided them into three categories: areas of viral variants – including the UK. United, Brazil, India, Uruguay and South Africa, among 13 countries, followed by “high incidence areas” – 24 countries, including Egypt, Chile, Argentina and Mexico, and “single risk areas”, which is by far the longest list, and includes Portugal, Spain, Denmark and many other favorite destinations for German holidaymakers.
On Thursday, Health Minister Jens Spahn launched a digital vaccine passport so that vaccinated people can show proof of it in a coronavirus alert app or via a QR code on their mobile phones. He called it a new tool in the fight against the coronavirus, which he hoped would “make getting a vaccine even more attractive.” It will be valid throughout the European Union, thus facilitating travel. “The goal is that… in Helsinki, Amsterdam or Mallorca this digital vaccine certificate can be read,” Spahn said.
But at the same launch, Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI, warned: “The pandemic is far from over. He said, “He takes every little opportunity that we just shouldn’t be giving him. This has been confirmed, he said, by deadly epidemics that still occur in nursing homes in particular.
The daily death rate in Germany hovers around 100 per day. More than 90,000 people have died from the virus to date.
The tabloid Bild, the country’s most popular newspaper, which claims to capture the mood of the country and often reports the holidays as if it were a quasi-religious act, reports the return of the chance to travel with at least as much enthusiasm as he handled the vaccine breakthrough. It hosts daily question-and-answer sessions with consumer experts for its readers desperate to get answers to their countless questions about the dos and don’ts of the second pandemic summer.
Holidaymakers are rushing to book vaccinations following a lifting of vaccine prioritization rules in Germany last week, which made them more accessible to everyone.
In Germany, where at Easter, restrictions for holidaymakers were much stricter than for those traveling to Mallorca and Greece, much to the anger of local hoteliers, the rules continue to differ across the country. But, generally speaking, those who get vaccinated no longer need to be tested when heading to popular destinations such as the North Sea islands or the Baltic coast. Those who are not vaccinated must produce proof of a negative test result, which in some areas must be repeated every three days, although this requirement is also relaxed.
Testing is now readily available, with over 15,000 pop-up centers having opened across the country. There are even special courier bikes that get to the person wanting to be tested.
The challenge for many is where to find accommodation, with many vacations already booked. “Customers told me they would be ready to sleep in a broom cupboard,” Nancy Engels, a hotelier from Hiddensee Island, northern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, told Spiegel.