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Delta and Other Baggage: New COVID-19 Rules for Travelers in Germany Arrive Late and Fall Short

  • July 31, 2021

As such, public health departments may be overburdened in the near term, even with incidences much lower than those in the second and third waves.

If the numbers continue to rise, Walczok also sees a new debate arising in the autumn, at the latest, over whether public health departments should even continue trying to track all cases.

He notes that younger people, of whom few have been vaccinated, are less likely to get seriously ill and require hospitalization. For him, that raises the question of whether the health authorities should instead concentrate on cases in which an infected person has had contact with older, unvaccinated persons. “A lot of public health departments would really welcome that,” Walczok says.

School starts again in Hamburg next week, and the city already has the highest incidence of any state in Germany. Last Monday alone, 9,000 vacationers returned from risk areas, and it’s possible that many brought the Delta variant back with them. The social authorities in the city-state believe that around half of the new infections in Hamburg have been brought back by people returning home from abroad.

As a precaution, the city government has grown the central support unit for public health departments, which tracks contacts and checks for quarantine compliance, to a staff of more than 200. The week before last, 70 percent of Hamburg residents who returned from vacations in a high-risk area received a call. The idea is for returnees to have the feeling the authorities have their eye on them.

And that if they don’t follow the rules, it could get expensive. Anyone caught entering Hamburg from a risk area without having registered online can be forced to pay a fine of 300 euros ($356). In North Rhine-Westphalia, anyone who fails to comply with the quarantine requirement can face a fine of up to 10,000 euros. And a returnee who goes to work even though he or she should have been in quarantine faces a maximum fine of 25,000 euros.

But is the threat of financial penalties enough?

In Lower Saxony, it is indoor celebrations, and not travelers, that are the main problem. In the Hannover region, authorities have attributed 140 infections to parties since the beginning of July, and around 3,000 people have been forced into quarantine by public health departments.

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