Germany reclassifies UK due to India Covid strain
Germany is adjusting its classification of the UK to identify it as a "virus variant area" due to the spread of the coronavirus strain first identified in India, the Robert Koch institute (RKI) for disease control said.
The move means significant restrictions on travel will come into force on Sunday, reports dpa news agency.
Airlines, rail and bus companies will only be able to bring German citizens or residents into the country.
Arrivals in Germany will have to spend two weeks in quarantine, with no possible reduction even if they test negative for the virus.
"This step is hard for Britain but it is necessary to prevent the fast spread of the Indian variant in Germany," a spokesman for German Health Minister Jens Spahn told dpa news on Friday.
"If we want to continue to push down infection numbers, we must prevent contagious virus variants from jeopardizing the positive developments," he said.
"We will only be armed against this kind of danger when more people are vaccinated."
The UK is the first country in Europe to be identified as a virus variant area, Germany's highest risk category, for some time.
The category currently applies to 11 countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
The Indian variant also known as B.1.617.2 is thought to be more contagious than other strains and is considered the driving factor behind the devastating second wave in the country.
The UK recorded more than 3,400 cases of the variant as of May 19.
Germany's RKI said it lacked data about the Indian variant.
It is assumed to be more transmissible, according to the institute's chief Lothar Wiele, who said Friday he suspected vaccines provided slightly less protection against the strain.
The UK was recently removed from Germany's list of risky areas altogether after a fast-paced vaccination campaign and tough lockdowns massively reduced case numbers.
But last week it returned to the list in the lowest risk category due to the presence of the Indian variant. - IANS
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