German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to suspend almost all international air travel in order to prevent the spread of dangerous coronavirus mutations. Seehofer, who cited a similar practice in Israel as an example, also said that his ministry planned to consider closing borders in particularly infected areas.
“The threat posed by various mutations in the virus is forcing us to take drastic action. This means, among other things, significantly stricter border controls, especially in vulnerable areas, and reducing the number of civil flights to Germany to almost zero,” Seehofer told Bild magazine.
The paper noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the Home Secretary last Sunday to consider options to prevent the spread of virus variants. Merkel, however, also said in the federal parliament on Tuesday that she was opposed to a total travel ban, but did call for a suspension of tourism.
The German Tourism Association (BTW) sharply criticized the measure, as the pandemic had already sent the tourism and business travel sector to the floor.
“The government should take this into account and not impose further restrictions, as freedom of movement is already severely restricted without it,” BTW said in a statement. The BTW also pointed out that the federal government should address the “drastic deficit” in vaccination rather than take into account that freedom of movement is a fundamental right rather than a privilege conferred by politics.
Germany has had a strict lockdown in place since Dec. 16 last year, which has been extended to Feb. 14. Inbound travel is limited to necessary movements, hotels are not allowed to provide tourist accommodations, and no tourist visas are being issued.
Nationwide, with the exception of essential convenience stores, all other retail stores, restaurants, liquor stores, theaters, and museums are closed. Social distancing must be observed, and the wearing of an FFP2 medical mask is mandatory in shops and vehicles. From Jan. 24, citizens of more than 20 so-called high-risk countries will only be admitted to Germany after strict controls.
According to the latest data, the coronavirus death toll was 968 on Wednesday alone, bringing the total since the pandemic outbreak to 55,358.
Title image: Opening of Berlin’s new Brandenburg airport on October 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)