Germany expects the Delta variant of COVID-19 to account for up to 80% of infections this month, meaning it could ease travel restrictions from countries like Portugal and Britain where it already dominates, the German health minister said on Thursday.
Jens Spahn told a news conference that Germany could reduce the current 14-day quarantine requirement that it imposes on travellers from countries with high levels of the Delta variant once it is sure that vaccinated people are protected.
New studies suggest that people who have received two doses of vaccine are well protected against the Delta variant, which could mean that the rules could be reassessed soon, Spahn said, without saying when that may happen.
He reiterated the importance of speeding up vaccinations, noting that 37% of Germany’s population has now received two shots, while 55% has had their first dose.
Germany last week declared Portugal and Russia to be “virus-variant zones”, meaning a mandatory two-week quarantine even if travellers are fully vaccinated or test negative, prompting German tourists there to rush home and airlines to cancel flights. It also classifies Britain as such a zone.
Spahn suggested that such countries could be shifted to a category that allows travellers to be released from quarantine after five days if they test negative.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to discuss travel restrictions when she meets British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.
The European Commission said on Tuesday that Germany should not impose a travel ban on Portugal but limit itself to imposing testing and quarantine requirements to be in line with the European Union approach meant to ease summer travel.