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Germany bans entry from the UK, Ireland, Brazil, Portugal and South Africa over COVID-19 variants

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A passenger at Frankfurt International Airport
A passenger at Frankfurt International Airport   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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From Saturday, Germany will close its borders to arrivals from five countries that are affected by COVID-19 variants, in order to "protect the German population", the German health ministry said, according to the AFP and DPA news agencies.

Entry into its territory by land, sea and air will be denied to people coming from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Portugal and South Africa.

The decision will be valid until at least February 17, the government said.

The five countries are considered to be heavily affected by different variants of COVID-19, and the German government has been mulling taking "drastic action" to avoid having the strains spread further in the country.

Federal Interior Minister Seehofer had raised the possibility of cutting air traffic to Germany “to almost zero”, but on Friday told a news conference new measures would focus on the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa and Portugal.

Talks have been ongoing at an EU level in an attempt to avoid the disunited approach to travel and border closures that has been seen previously during the pandemic.

But Germany's interior ministry warned on Thursday “if no satisfactory measures are decided at EU level” the country would act at a national level.

And without an EU-wide agreement in place, that's what Germany has now done.

The restrictions do include several exceptions, such as for Germans living in these countries, and those who have residency in Germany, as well as passengers in transit or the movement of goods, according to a document seen by AFP.

The ban comes amid growing fears over new variants of coronavirus, such as the one first discovered in England, which quickly became the dominant strain in the UK.

Scientists say it is up to 70% more infectious than the original strain that started the global pandemic, and could be more deadly too.