Merkel set to announce UK travel ban as EU dithers over Covid travel restrictions

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Berlin is looking to press on with the near-total ban despite no formal decisions being taken by the European Union on the matter. EU home affairs ministers held talks yesterday to discuss a more coordinated approach to international travel measures. Yesterday German interior minister Horst Seehofer said: “To protect our population, there should be no entry from regions where these variants of the virus are rampant.”

He said the measures were “under discussion” in Berlin and said the influential capital would push on with its measures even if similar EU restrictions aren’t agreed agreed by the bloc.

“We cannot expect a European solution that meets our expectations any time soon, so are preparing national measures,” he added.

Other EU governments have announced their own measures to tackle the spread of new coronavirus variants, including the mutant strain discovered in Britain.

Belgium last week barred all non-essential travel, in and out of the country, by land, air and sea.

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And the Netherlands introduced a ban on inbound flights from the UK, South Africa and South America.

Portugal, which is currently one of the world’s worst-hit states, said it would close its border with Spain for two weeks from Friday.

But EU-wide travel measures, which are currently being worked on, are not expected to be as draconian as eurocrats fight to keep the bloc’s free-travel zone in tact.

Brussels wants to avoid individual European capitals from shutting their borders to their EU neighbours.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said cross-border travel, except for essential workers and truckers, should be “strongly discouraged”.

Last week her justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, added: “There is currently a very high number of new infections across many member states, so there is an urgent need to reduce the risk of travel-related infections.

“Border closures will not help, common measures will.”

EU countries agreed that new measures, such as increased testing and mandatory quarantine periods, would be vital in ensuring borders came remain open while the spread of the virus is curbed.

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Sandra Ciesek, a professor of virology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, insisted an EU-wide approach was vital.

She said: “We must try to delay the spread of the variants in Germany.

“That can only function if it’s Europe-wide, because we are not living isolated on an island.”

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Any measures are likely to mirror those introduced by France, Italy, Greece and the Netherlands.

The four states require all intra-EU travellers, with few exemptions, to present a negative PCR test from within 72 hours of departure.

Belgium has enforced a 10-day quarantine period, with tests on the first and seventh day, to counter the new variants.

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