Federal government restricts air traffic due to Corona variant

The acting Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn announced on Friday morning via Twitter that Germany would declare South Africa a virus variant area. With the entry into force at night, airlines will only be allowed to transport Germans to Germany, and there will also be a 14-day quarantine for everyone, including those who have been vaccinated. According to the industry association DRV, there are currently up to 400 guests with German tour operators in southern Africa.

Experts fear that variant B.1.1.529 could be highly contagious due to an unusually large number of mutations and could also penetrate the protective shield of the vaccines more easily.

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As the ministry further announced, the new classification may also affect neighboring countries of South Africa. The newly discovered virus variant “worries us, so we are acting pro-actively and at an early stage”, explained the managing minister Jens Spahn (CDU). “The last thing we are missing now is a new variant that has been introduced and that causes even more problems.”

Spahn asks travelers from South Africa to be tested with a PCR test. Since the assessment as a virus variant area with the quarantine requirement does not take effect until tonight, he appeals to people who have arrived from South Africa today or a few days ago to be tested voluntarily.

Lufthansa leaves South Africa flights in the program

The Lufthansa Group is still leaving flights to South Africa in the program for the time being. “We are monitoring the situation very closely,” said a Lufthansa spokesman. The core brand Lufthansa currently flies to South Africa 17 times a week, while the Swiss subsidiaries Swiss and Edelweiss offer nine connections. Lufthansa Cargo will also continue to operate cargo flights. The price of Lufthansa shares collapsed on the stock exchange, as severe travel restrictions threaten due to the appearance of new virus variants.

Because of the spread of a new, possibly more dangerous variant of the corona virus, the EU Commission also wants to limit travel from southern Africa to the EU to an absolute minimum.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Twitter that the Brussels authority will propose to the EU states that they trigger the emergency brake provided for this in order to suspend air traffic. The authenticity of the tweet has been confirmed to the German press agency.

Italy’s Minister of Health Roberto Speranza restricted entry from several South African countries by order. Italian scientists worked to study the variant. In the meantime, according to Speranza, “maximum caution” applies.

Austria also prohibits entry from South Africa and some other African countries. The Ministry of Health announced on Friday. Only Austrians who stayed in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are still allowed to return to their homeland. But you would have to observe particularly strict quarantine conditions.

The Netherlands and the Czech Republic announced something similar.

Before that, the designated Minister of Transport Wissing was maneuvering

The designated transport minister of the traffic light coalition, Volker Wissing (FDP), had not yet given a clear answer on Friday morning as to how to proceed with the variant.

Wissing answered on Deutschlandfunk first, that the federal states would have to better implement the Infection Protection Act. When asked again whether flights from the affected regions should no longer land in Frankfurt and other large German cities, Wissing replied again that the most important thing was to implement contact restrictions in Germany as soon as possible. In the third attempt, Wissing pointed out that the federal government still in office would have to decide. Finally, he also recommended “measures in air traffic” to the federal government.

Soon Transport Minister Volker Wissing refers to the old federal government.Photo: imago/Sämmer

Variant could break through the vaccination shield

The Chancellery is also alarmed by the new virus variant. “The scientists are all very alarmed,” said Braun on Friday morning in the ARD morning magazine. Experts fear that variant B.1.1.529 is not only highly contagious due to an unusually large number of mutations, but could also penetrate the protective shield of the vaccines more easily. Braun emphasized that this is why talks with the Robert Koch Institute would also be held.

More on the topic on Tagesspiegel Plus:

The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach, who is also being traded as a possible new federal health minister, wrote on Twitter: “We have to buy time. Nothing is worse than a new variant in a running wave. ”If preliminary data turn out to be correct,“ travel restrictions must be imposed immediately ”.

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Federal government restricts air traffic due to Corona variant