Will summer vacations lead to a significant increase in the number of corona cases in Germany? This question is being debated in the middle of the vacation season, as are testing and quarantine requirements for people returning from a trip abroad.
One thing in particular is clear: According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is considered particularly infectious, is increasingly responsible for the rise in infections. A part of the new infections, which show recent evaluations of the institute, go back thereby to vacations. In the latest weekly report, however, the RKI also points out that in most cases Germany is assumed to be the most likely place of infection. In four out of ten cases, no information was available on the country of infection. In ten percent of cases, it was likely that the virus had been brought from a vacation destination. "This indicates an increasing role of travel-associated cases in the current incidence of infection," the report said.
By far the most infections come from Spain, according to the report. Within four weeks, the RKI attributes a good 820 infections to a corresponding trip. The vacation destination popular with Germans is struggling with the fourth Corona wave and has just been upgraded by the German government from a risk country to a high-incidence area.
This means that anyone returning from vacation as of Tuesday who has not been vaccinated or recovered must go into domestic quarantine for at least five days. This can be terminated by a negative test result. For those who cannot provide a test, the duration of quarantine is ten days.
The regulations also apply to children: anyone who has vaccinated themselves, but goes on vacation with unvaccinated children, must send them into quarantine after returning from a high-incidence area.
According to the travel association DRV, about 200,000 package tour travelers from Germany are currently on vacation in Spain, of which about 60 percent are on the Balearic Islands, 30 percent on the Canary Islands and the rest on the mainland. In addition, there are an estimated 200,000 individual vacationers from Germany.
The RKI attributes further infections in recent weeks to travel to a wide variety of countries. After Spain, Russia is in second place, followed by the Netherlands, which is also considered a high incidence area as of Tuesday. Other travel countries where people are likely to have been infected are Turkey, Croatia, Greece, Portugal, France and Italy.
The president of the World Medical Association, Ulrich Montgomery, sees a risk that these numbers will continue to increase. "Spain and Italy are popular vacation destinations, especially among younger people, who often have not yet been vaccinated twice. The virus entry into Germany from these countries will clearly increase due to the travelers returning," Montgomery predicted in the "Rheinische Post."
Germany is already in the fourth wave, he said, as a doubling of infections can be seen every ten days. "We must ensure that the fourth wave does not turn into a tsunami with consistent quarantine for unvaccinated travelers returning home and adherence to the AHA rules," he said.
Chancellor's Office chief Helge Braun (CDU) also warns of a significant increase in the number of cases in the next two months - if Delta continues to spread so rapidly and is not countered by "an enormously high vaccination rate or a change in behavior." The number of new daily infections, he said, could then rise to 100,000 and the seven-day incidence to a level of 850.
Stricter rules for travelers returning home
As a consequence, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's Minister-President Manuela Schwesig (SPD) is calling for stricter rules for travel returnees. "Already when returning from a risk area, two tests and a quarantine until the second test should be obligatory," she told the "Handelsblatt". One test on return is not meaningful enough, she added.
Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder (CSU) wants to bring forward the meeting of minister presidents planned for the end of August to discuss how to deal with foreign travel. Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, health policy spokeswoman for the FDP parliamentary group, on the other hand, believes that tightening the regulations on the basis of incidence is wrong. However, she also points out that unvaccinated people would have to reckon with tests and quarantine on their return journey.
Conversely, vacationers must also prepare for changes in travel conditions at short notice, even if they are traveling to countries that are not currently classified as risk areas. For example, Italy, which was hit the earliest and particularly hard by the pandemic, is again imposing stricter rules as of this Monday: A tightened version of the "green pass" is required for restaurants, movie theaters and air travel, proof of at least one vaccine dose - this for restaurants and all other enclosed spaces - or full vaccination, which will apply to air travelers and anywhere there is a risk of large crowds.
A final list of regulations is not expected until Monday; there are still disputes within the government over the issue. While the ministers of Berlusconi's "Forza Italia" agree, the head of the right-wing Lega, Matteo Salvini, sees the freedom of millions of Italians in danger.On public transport, the government so far sees no possibility of requiring the green pass but has called on all regions to significantly improve the frequency of buses and streetcars to allow greater distances between passengers. Since June, Italy has only accepted QR codes on entry as proof of vaccination or recovery, either digitally or printed out.
Photo by Massimo Virgilio