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Travel in Germany: What’s allowed (and not) over Easter holidays?



A few days at the beach, a city adventure, or a holiday home somewhere in the countryside: All this remains difficult to impossible during the Easter holidays between April 1st to 5th. In light of rising infection rates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 state leaders agreed on early Tuesday morning to continue to advise against tourist travel at home and abroad. 

This does not mean you have to avoid travel completely, but a lot will no longer be possible. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s hard lockdown measures over Easter

Can I travel at all within Germany?

You can travel anywhere, you just can’t find accommodation. This is because hotels and holiday homes will remain closed to tourists in all states during Easter. Overnight stays are still only permitted in special cases, for example if you are traveling for business. 

In most states, you are also not allowed to stay overnight in hotels in order to visit relatives – only if there is an urgent reason for doing so. This also applies to Easter. Yet each state has specified their own rules in their disease ordinances. 

Can I at least travel to visit my relatives?

In general, nothing stands in the way of an Easter visit to the family. However, even in this case, only a maximum of five people from two households are allowed to get together, and children up to the age of 14 are not counted. 

There will be no relaxation of contact restrictions over the holidays – such as at Christmas, when meetings with four people beyond one’s household were possible – at Easter. In addition, people are encouraged to take advantage of the free Covid-19 testing offers – that is, to get tested before coming together.

Where can I stay overnight?

Anyone who wants to travel for Easter will have to find private accommodation, for example with family members or friends. The states of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate had lobbied to allow “low-contact vacations” (such as in a self-catering vacation home) in their own state over Easter, but failed to win over Chancellor Merkel’s approval. 

Booths and tables at the normally crowded Baltic Sea coast in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will remain empty this year at Easter. Photo: DPA

What about day trips?

Day trips are permitted, but here, too, the federal and state governments advise caution. Restaurants and cafés remain closed. In a few selected regions with low incidence rates, individual areas of public life may be opened as part of temporary model projects with strict protective measures. 

READ ALSO: Why one German town is lifting its lockdown despite third coronavirus wave

Will Mallorca remain an alternative to domestic vacations?

In principle, yes. On their return, however, tourists now have to be tested for the virus before boarding a plane back to Germany. In the future, this will apply to all flights to Germany and to all travellers – regardless of whether they’re coming from a coronavirus risk area or for what purpose they come to Germany – as long as the Bundestag votes to adopt this in the disease control law.

In addition, the federal and state governments have forbidden airlines from offering any additional flights to the Germans’ favourite island during the Easter vacations. 

However, the quarantine for Mallorca returnees will not be reintroduced. With the removal of the island from the list of the Robert Koch Institute’s risk areas, this measure has not been necessary since March 14th.

Where else can I travel abroad?

There is no travel ban for any destination. In principle, you can travel to all countries where there are no entry restrictions for Germany and to which there are flight connections.

However, quarantine is compulsory for about 160 of around 200 countries worldwide on return because they are classified as risk areas. Here is a complete updated list of current risk areas.

Apart from Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands such as Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera, only a few vacation destinations in Europe are not on the risk list so far. These include the Croatian vacation peninsula of Istria, parts of the Spanish mainland and Portugal’s Algarve coast. However, hotels in the Algarve, for example, are not allowed to take in tourists – as is the case in Germany.

Can I also go on holiday in a risk area?

That is not forbidden either. And there are also flight connections to such areas, such as the Canary Islands. Many hotels are open there. However, you will have to accept quarantine on your return to Germany – and perhaps also critical questions from your employer and other people.

Why is the holiday abroad so controversial?

Virologists warn that increasing mobility and carelessness on vacation are driving up infection rates. “If travel activity goes up, incidence rates will go up. That’s relatively clear,” said Mainz virologist Bodo Plachter. 

“On holiday, you want to relax, you want to then forget about the virus. And that leads to (…) that caution decreases and the infection rates increase.” This effect already existed last summer, he stated.

The tour operators, however, insist that social distancing rules and hygiene plans are in place, and therefore that package vacations are relatively safe.

READ ALSO: ‘Not an invitation to go there’: Germany urges against Mallorca holiday following lifting of travel warning

In light of the new wave of infections, does anyone still want to travel?

A large majority of Germans do not. In a survey conducted by the opinion research institute YouGov on behalf of DPA, 79 percent of respondents already said last week that they did not want to travel.

Only two percent had planned a holiday abroad at the time of the survey (March 16th to 18th), another four percent wanted to travel domestically, and ten percent had not yet decided.

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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture



Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds



Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal



CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

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