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Germany declares UK a coronavirus variant region

May 21, 2021

Germany classified Britain a "virus variant area" due to the spread of the COVID-19 variant first identified in India. The warning means stricter restrictions and quarantine measures for those arriving from the UK.

two passengers at a UK airport
Travelers from the UK to Germany will face tougher restrictionsImage: Reuters/T. Melville

Germany's Robert Koch Institute for public health declared Britain and Northern Ireland a virus variant region on Friday.

The move, which will come into force on Sunday, will see significant travel restrictions introduced.

Germany, where new coronavirus infections have been falling lately,  adjusted the classification as cases of a worrying coronavirus variant first found in India continue to rise in Britain.

What the new classification means

Anyone entering Germany from the United Kingdom will be required quarantine for two weeks on arrival, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Airlines, rail and bus companies will only be able to bring German citizens or people who reside in Germany into the country.

"We want to play it safe," a German government source told Reuters news agency. "In this important phase of the vaccination campaign, the entry of problematic mutations must be avoided as far as possible."

UK fights spread of COVID variant

The Indian variant — what we know so far

The B.1.617 variant was first discovered in India in October 2020.

It has been upgraded by the WHO to a "variant of concern," from a "variant of interest."

This is because there is some evidence to suggest this variant is more contagious than other variants, according to the WHO's lead COVID-19 scientist, Maria van Kerkhove.

There may be some evidence to show it may be more resistant to vaccines.

But the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday that: "All COVID-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available, approved vaccines."

Where the Indian variant has been found

Since its discovery, the variant has been found in 26 out of the 53 countries that span the region covered by the WHO Europe.

The UK has seen cases of the variant more than double within a week. The country's northwest has been particularly hard hit.

Earlier this week, residents of two tower blocks in the western German town of Velbert, near Düsseldorf, were put under quarantine after a woman was diagnosed with the infectious Indian variant.

kmm/sms (Reuters, dpa)