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Germany to fly back thousands of stranded tourists

Alistair Walsh
March 17, 2020

Using language evocative of the Cold War, the German government has promised to bring back thousands of stranded Germans. There is now a formal warning to stop Germans leaving the country.

Man waits for his flight as he wears protective mask against coronavirus
Image: Reuters/K. Pempel

The German government is undertaking an emergency program to bring back thousands of citizens stranded overseas due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It has struck a deal with airlines to fly tourists back on special flights, particularly from Morocco, the Domincan Republic, the Philippines, the Maldives, and Egypt.

Read more: Coronavirus crisis: What travelers now need to know

Priority countries for repatriating stranded Germans

Details of the mission

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the procedure as a "Luftbrücke" invoking memories of the extraordinary Berlin airlift program that flew supplies into a cut-off West Berlin during the Cold War.

Specifically, he said:

  • The government had set aside €50 million for the program, which will focus on package holiday tourists.
  • There was a particular urgency in Morocco, where between 4,000 and 5,000 Germans are stranded.
  • General rules for returnees would apply, and did not suggest there would be a general quarantine.
  • Tourists should remain patient as "we won't be able to offer a 24 hour-solution in every case."

Read more: Coronavirus: How are Germany's biggest airports coping?

Morocco has canceled commercial flights to and from Germany, while ferries have also been stopped, meaning the only way to travel to mainland Spain is via the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.

Travel warning

Maas said there was now a formal warning in place, advising Germans not to leave the country.

"We must prevent other German travellers from getting stranded abroad. For this reason, we decided from now to warn against all tourist travel," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday urged all Germans to stop holidaying at home and abroad, as she announced sweeping curbs to keep them indoors to halt the contagion.

Germany normally only issues travel warnings for war zones and crisis areas. The advisory gives a strong legal backing for German tourists seeking a refund for canceled travel plans, likely increasing the chance that people will choose to cancel travel plans.

"Travel warning: From now on we have decided to warn against all unnecessary tourist trips abroad. Hence the urgent request: Stay at home. You will help yourself and others! This travel warning for tourist travel applies worldwide," Maas wrote on Twitter.

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