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28 Jan, 2021 12:39

Germany to shut down travel from Britain, Portugal, South Africa and Brazil – deemed high risk due to Covid-19 mutations

Germany to shut down travel from Britain, Portugal, South Africa and Brazil – deemed high risk due to Covid-19 mutations

Germany plans to block entry to people arriving from countries where new mutations of Covid-19 are spreading, following the lead of other nations that have been tightening restrictions in response to the potential health threat.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced on Thursday that the government was preparing to refuse travelers from “mutation areas,” which he listed as Brazil, Britain, Portugal and South Africa.

Earlier this week, Seehofer signaled that Germany was mulling the possibility of reducing inbound air travel to “almost zero,” citing Israel as an example to emulate. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers on Tuesday that she was opposed to a blanket ban, advocating instead for more targeted measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus mutations. 

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The German government said it would take action after the Health Ministry detected cases of the variants from Brazil, the UK and South Africa in the country. 

The planned restrictions coincide with similar travel bans rolled out by other concerned governments. Norway announced yesterday that all foreign arrivals, apart from essential journeys, would be blocked starting midnight on Friday. Prime Minister Erna Solberg said the policy was designed to bar anyone who doesn’t live in the country from entry. However, exceptions will be made for essential workers coming to Norway from abroad. 

Earlier this month, the UK shut its border to people from South America and Portugal over fears of a new Covid-19 variant discovered in Brazil. It ratcheted up its restrictions earlier this week, ordering UK citizens traveling from ‘red-list’ countries to quarantine in government-provided accommodation.

There are fears that the mutations could be more contagious or cause more severe symptoms than earlier iterations of the virus. The UK mutation, for example, is suspected of being more likely to cause coughing than older strains of Covid-19, but smell and taste seem less affected, according to data released by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday.

There is also uncertainty over whether the current Covid-19 vaccines on the market are less effective against the new strains, although pharmaceutical firms have expressed confidence that their jabs perform well against the mutations. 

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last week that the variants could potentially undermine vaccination drives that have begun around the world, cautioning that further mutations were possible if the spread of the virus is curbed quickly.

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