Germany travel update – is the end in sight?
By Emma Harvey
Many countries around the world have imposed and expanded travel bans over the past few months due to the coronavirus epidemic. In March, Germany imposed border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland. German citizens are allowed to return to Germany at all times, but they can only leave for essential purposes. Non-German citizens are allowed to enter the country under certain circumstances, such as to return to their home or legal residence in Germany, for vital work purposes, urgent medical treatment or to connect to their home country, if there is no other travel connection available.
Extending the ban beyond Easter
Travel restrictions and limits on public life in Germany were initially set to end on 5th April, but after review, the German government decided that social distancing measures needed to be extended throughout the Easter holidays and kept in place until at least 19th April. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that “a pandemic doesn’t take a vacation” and thus it was too early to slacken restrictive measures.
German residents were advised not to travel over the Easter holidays. All pre-planned Easter celebrations with family or friends would have to be called off. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has also warned against travelling abroad over the Easter holidays and reiterated the importance of essential travel only, which will remain in effect until at least the end of April.
A notable exception
However, in one area of Germany, travel restrictions have been somewhat eased. Around the Baltic coast, locals now have permission to go on day trips to the beach and the Baltic Sea islands over the Easter weekend, after Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s court overturned the ban on 9th April. The court concluded that the freedom of locals was being unnecessarily restrained and they were violating a fundamental right by not allowing residents to exercise along and visit the coast.
Nevertheless, residents are advised to stay two meters apart and State Premier Manuela Schwesig, whilst respecting the court’s decision, implored residents to stay at home and avoid travelling throughout the state. Additionally, there have also been some concerns that non-locals will attempt to travel to the Baltic coast from other states such as Hamburg, although they are officially banned, which would not be good for social distancing.
Immigration restrictions eased
Furthermore, the federal government has also loosened its border restrictions somewhat by accepting thousands of agricultural workers from Romania and Poland to help pick asparagus and strawberries during the spring harvest season.
Judging Merkel’s decision
Angela Merkel has maintained that “it would be very bad if we lifted the contact restriction too early and then rowed back again later.” So far Germany’s restrictions and rapid, thorough testing processes have proven to be effective in curbing the spread of infection. Merkel’s decision to not prematurely lift these bans may prove a shrewd decision and prevent a significant second wave of infections.