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Germany closes border to British tourists over rising omicron cases

Germany on Monday became the latest country to ban Britons from entering as it added the UK to its equivalent of the red list over rising omicron cases.

Under the ban, which came into force at midnight, only German citizens and residents are allowed to return to the country from the UK.

Britons will not be allowed to board flights to Germany unless they can prove they are resident in the country.

Those who are allowed in will be subject to 14 days’ self-isolation at home, but no hotel quarantine.

The move means Germany has joined France and Israel in banning almost all travel from the UK over the omicron variant.

It came as Karl Lauterbach, the German health minister, ruled out a lockdown in the country before Christmas.

In a change from its previous policy, Germany did not issue an outright ban on direct flights from the UK.

Instead, it ordered new rules similar to those imposed by France last week, under which Britons and others will be allowed to transit through German airports or leave the country.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach speaks during a press statement following a meeting with the Minister President of Lower Saxony, on December 17, 2021 in Hanover, central Germany. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP) (Photo by RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images) - RONNY HARTMANN /AFP© Provided by The Telegraph German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach speaks during a press statement following a meeting with the Minister President of Lower Saxony, on December 17, 2021 in Hanover, central Germany. (Photo by Ronny Hartmann / AFP) (Photo by RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images) – RONNY HARTMANN /AFP

The change appears to be a concession to the beleaguered air industry, but it will be welcomed by Britons currently in Germany who will be able to return home.

Berlin announced it was designating Britain as a “virus variant area”, its version of the red list, in an eleventh hour U-turn late on Saturday night.

Just 24 hours before, Olaf Scholz’s government had resisted pressure to bar travel from the UK in its weekly review of travel classifications.

The German health ministry claimed the change of policy was in response to the rapid rise of omicron cases in Britain.

But it is clear there were divisions within the German government after regional authorities took the unusual step of issuing a public statement calling for Britain to be put on the red lits.

“We urge the health ministry to continue to press for the UK to be designated a virus variant area as soon as possible,” the statement said.

“Making entry safer helps to prevent the omicron variant from spreading so quickly. We cannot prevent the spread, we can only delay it. The longer it takes for omicron to get a grip on Germany, the better,” said Karl Lauterbach, the German health minister.

The classification is expected to last until at least January 3.

A picture taken on December 19, 2021 shows a view of the deserted Dam Square in Amsterdam as Netherlands go back into lockdown to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. - The Netherlands announced a Christmas lockdown and London declared a "major incident" as Europe tries to rein in rising Covid-19 case numbers and the highly mutated Omicron strain takes hold. (Photo by Ramon van Flymen / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo by RAMON VAN FLYMEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images) - RAMON VAN FLYMEN /AFP© Provided by The Telegraph A picture taken on December 19, 2021 shows a view of the deserted Dam Square in Amsterdam as Netherlands go back into lockdown to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. – The Netherlands announced a Christmas lockdown and London declared a “major incident” as Europe tries to rein in rising Covid-19 case numbers and the highly mutated Omicron strain takes hold. (Photo by Ramon van Flymen / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo by RAMON VAN FLYMEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images) – RAMON VAN FLYMEN /AFP

In the neighbouring Netherlands, the streets were deserted as a snap lockdown announced on Saturday night to slow the rise in omicron cases came into force.

Restaurants, gyms, hairdressers and non-essential shops have been ordered to close until January 14, and gatherings of more than two people ooutside have been banned, leaving many people’s Christmas plans in disarray.

Protests against the restrictions turned violent in Rotterdam as demonstrators threw bottles and fireworks and police used water cannon to disperse a crowd of around 1,000 people.

Saturday evening’s announcement by Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, was unexpected and many people rushed out to get a last minute haircut or buy Christmas gifts.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12651270f) Supporters of Feyenoord gather near the Kuip stadium, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 19 December 2021, prior to the Dutch Eredivisie soccer match between Feyenoord Rotterdam and Ajax Amsterdam. The match takes place without spectators as the Netherlands entered a hard lockdown starting from 19 December 2021 until at least 14 January 2022 to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Supporters of Feyenoord gather at Kuip stadium, Rotterdam, Netherlands - 19 Dec 2021 - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock© Provided by The Telegraph Mandatory Credit: Photo by STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (12651270f) Supporters of Feyenoord gather near the Kuip stadium, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 19 December 2021, prior to the Dutch Eredivisie soccer match between Feyenoord Rotterdam and Ajax Amsterdam. The match takes place without spectators as the Netherlands entered a hard lockdown starting from 19 December 2021 until at least 14 January 2022 to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Supporters of Feyenoord gather at Kuip stadium, Rotterdam, Netherlands – 19 Dec 2021 – STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Closing all bars and restaurants in such an important month is incredibly painful and dramatic. We need compensation and an exit strategy,” the Dutch Hospitality Association said.

Israel’s health ministry called for several European countries including Germany, Italy and Portugal to be added to its red list, which already includes the UK.

The ministry also took the unusual step of recommending Israelis be banned from travel to the US.

“European countries are either in lockdown or are heading that way,” said Naftali Bennett, the Israeli prime minister, adding that for Israel “time is running out”.

Meanwhile Iran confirmed its first case of the omicron variant on Sunday. The Middle East’s most populated country has already seen more than 131,000 deaths from the virus, but cases have fallen in recent months.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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