Travel Update: No clear end in sight for travel restrictions in Germany
With the summer holidays slowly but surely approaching, it’s not clear whether it will be possible for Germans to travel domestically or abroad in the coming months, or if Germans will be spending their summer holidays on balconies or in back gardens.
In recent weeks, Merkel has made it very clear that prematurely abolishing lockdown measures could risk a second wave of infections, arguing the importance of not “squander[ing] what we have achieved and risk[ing] a setback.”. The government’s strategy has therefore been to gradually ease the lockdown, so as not to risk a relapse.
Whilst Germany is slowly starting to come out of lockdown with small shops re-opening and schools set to re-open gradually from 4 May, there are still stringent measures in place, especially in terms of travel and social distancing. Germany’s travel warnings issued in mid-March against non-essential travel within Germany and abroad, especially for tourism purposes, have been extended until at least 3 May, alongside Germany’s nationwide social-distancing measures such bans on large public gatherings until 31 August. Furthermore, any non-essential travel from outside the Schengen Zone is still forbidden until at least 15 May.
Consequently, Germany’s residents are still only allowed to travel for essential purposes but are prohibited from visiting relatives, taking day trips and travelling to foreign countries. Many residents are unsure of when they will be able to see their loved ones abroad or take a summer holiday abroad. And, with 2018 seeing the number of outbound trips made from Germany amount to 108.54 million (according to Statista), it’s evident these restrictions will affect significant numbers of people.
Entry into Germany for tourism purposes is still banned and any non-German citizens attempting to enter for non-essential reasons will be turned away. Anyone who re-enters for essential reasons will still need to self-quarantine for two weeks.
This week, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Mass, explained that travel warnings aren’t likely to be relaxed any time soon and strongly advised against anyone travelling abroad. He warned the German government would not fly them home this time, having already invested significant resources into bringing stranded German tourists back home. Mass also added that even if Germany were to loosen its restrictions and allow residents to fly abroad, restrictive measures on freedom of movement and border restrictions in other countries, as well as limitations on international air traffic, would make it virtually impossible to go on holiday. He added that even if German citizens could enter another country, there would not be “conditions with which you can even have a relaxing holiday.” Mass told German citizens to expect a very different summer and that it would be very irresponsible to have a summer “with full beach bars and full mountain huts.”
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that “at the moment, no one can make reliable forecasts for July or August” and that, for now, “we will need to learn to live with the virus.” Most likely, there will not be any large group holidays, events, gatherings or opportunity for long-distance travel for some time.