Germany is set to classify the United Kingdom as an area of variant of concern due to the rapid spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, Germany's Robert Koch Institute announced on Saturday, December 18. The decision is set to go into effect on Monday, December 20. The restrictions will also apply to the British territories of the Isle of Wight and Channel Islands. The move puts the UK into the highest risk category as defined by German officials.
People entering Germany from virus-variant areas must quarantine for two weeks. This requirement applies to travelers regardless of whether they are vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus. Presenting a negative coronavirus test does not reduce the quarantine period.
Why is the UK in this category?
According to Germany's Health Ministry, areas of variants of concern are regions of widespread occurrence of a virus variant that can be reasonably believed to pose a particular risk. This means either that the variant is causing more severe symptoms, or that vaccination or recovery from the virus offers limited protection.
The UK is currently struggling to contain the rapid spread of the omicron coronavirus variant. On Friday, British officials reported a record number of over 93,000 new cases of coronavirus infection, and just over 90,000 new cases on Saturday.
Aside from the UK, a number of southern African countries have been classified as virus-variant areas since November 28. Travelers who enter Germany from virus-variant areas face stricter restrictions than travelers from areas that are designated simply as "high risk."
What are the high-risk areas?
Travelers entering Germany from high-risk regions need to undergo a 10-day quarantine period, which can be reduced to five days with a negative coronavirus test result. These restrictions apply to people who have not been fully vaccinated and cannot prove that they've already contracted the coronavirus and recovered from it.
The German government added France and Denmark to its list of high-risk areas on Sunday due to increasing numbers of coronavirus infections.
With this measure, all countries neighboring Germany except for Luxembourg will be considered high-risk areas. The label also applies to many other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas.Also on the list are Norway, Lebanon and Andorra, which were added by the Robert Koch Institute on Friday. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Albania, North Macedonia and Moldova have been removed from the list.
Criteria for inclusion in the list include absolute numbers of coronavirus infections, the rate of the virus' spread and the burden it imposes on the health care system.
sdi/dj (dpa, AFP)