Germany is considering stopping almost all incoming flights from countries affected by COVID-19 variants, regardless of what is agreed at an EU level.
Talks are ongoing within the EU about how countries could implement further restrictions, but the Interior Ministry of Germany said on Thursday “if no satisfactory measures are decided at EU level” the country would act at a national level.
Federal Interior Minister Seehofer had raised the possibility of cutting air traffic to Germany “to almost zero”, as he suggested "drastic measures" would be needed, but on Thursday told a news conference new measures would focus on air traffic with the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and Portugal.
"We are focusing on the mutation zones for this proposed travel restriction," he said, adding a draft regulation would be presented to the German government on Friday.
"We are trying to define which country is a mutation zone, which is less a political decision than a technical one,” he said, indicating more countries could be added to the list.
Germany's lockdown bringing numbers down
Germany has recorded nearly 2.2 million coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, and more than 55,000 deaths.
In the first wave starting in March, the country seemed to have escaped the worst of the virus, unlike many of its neighbours such as France and Italy.
But it implemented a national lockdown in mid-December, with officials worried as they started to see record cases, reaching a high on December 18 with 33,777.
This lockdown saw the closure of all non-essential businesses and schools.
In January it was extended until February 14, and made stricter, with people in hotspots being banned from travelling more than 15km from their homes, restricting private meetings to one other person from outside the household, and mandatory quarantines and testing for arrivals.
Stricter mask requirements were also imposed, with medical-grade ones made mandatory on public transport and in shops.
After the record daily cases came record daily death tolls, reaching a high of 1,244 on January 14.
The lockdown has led to a slower increase in cases, with more than 20,000 being recorded just one since January 16.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this month: “The number of new infections has decreased. That gives us hope. But the virus mutation carries a great danger. Now is the time to prevent this danger.”
The key worry in Germany now, as in many other countries, is to stop the entry and spread of the variants of COVID-19 that have been identified as being more transmissible.
Already present in several German regions, the UK variant, for example, is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible, and scientists have said it could be around 30% more lethal, but there is still uncertainty around this number.