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Germany mulls nixing foreign vacations

March 24, 2021

The German government said it is looking into the possibility of a temporary stop on foreign vacations. Confusion among people in Germany was high when trips to Spain's Mallorca were allowed but domestic travel wasn't.

German tourists line up at airport check-in desks to board flights to Mallorca
Many failed to understand how people could be allowed to flock to Mallorca but others couldn't vacation in GermanyImage: David Young/dpa/picture alliance

In the second major change of course for the day, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has announced that it is now considering the reversal of a decision made during a marathon coronavirus meeting of federal and state leaders on Monday.

Beyond backing off the idea of an extra day of quiet over the Easter holiday weekend, leaders have reacted to intense backlash over a decision to allow Germans to vacation abroad while many here cannot travel at home. Now it seems that Berlin is looking at the legal possibility of reversing the original green light for foreign travel.

The reversal was sparked by a run on booking sites offering travel to Mallorca, a favorite tourist destination for Germans, after the Spanish Balearic island registered a seven-day infection rate below 50 per 100,000 residents. 

Mallorca braces for tourists

Terrible decision to allow foreign travel

Among those most critical of the Foreign Ministry's decision to remove its travel warning for Mallorca on March 14 — thus allowing residents to travel to Spain and back without mandatory testing or quarantine — was Dietmar Woidke, state premier of Brandenburg, who said: "That was one of the worst mistakes made over the past few weeks. Many mistakes were made but this one — especially as regards peoples' understanding of government's coronavirus measures — hit like a bomb." 

Woidke said Germans simply couldn't understand how 40,000 of their neighbors could be allowed to fly abroad when they themselves could not travel within Germany

He added that when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus: "Every risk must be avoided. The virus wouldn't have arrived so quickly in Europe had it not been for flights like this. Mallorca will go down in history as a coronavirus incubator." 

Deputy federal government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer confirmed that the administration is currently considering a temporary ban on foreign travel, though she said there are a number of "major constitutional hurdles" to contend with before measures could be reversed.

Mallorca: The Germans are coming!

Germany's bad situation could soon get worse

Debate over the best path forward has been taking place at a time when Germany's infection rates are multiplying exponentially, with the country's disease control authority, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), warning that new, more communicable virus variants could lead to many more infections and deaths by the time the Easter holiday arrives. 

On Wednesday, the RKI registered 15,813 new infections, 2,378 more than the week prior. That puts Germany's seven-day infection index at 108.1. 

"The situation is still dramatic. We must extend the lockdown. If things keep up like they are now, we'll have an index far exceeding 200 after Easter, once again pushing our health system to the limit," said North Rhine-Westphalia State Premier Armin Laschet.
The spread of infection varies greatly across Germany's 16 states. According to the RKI, nine states have seven-day infection indices exceeding 100 — with Thuringia at 210 and parts of Saxony reaching 150, whereas Saarland and Schleswig-Holstein booked indices of 55.5 and 58.4, respectively, for the week.

js/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)