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‘Extremely strict’: What it’s like to travel from the UK to Germany right now

Voice Of EU

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After not seeing my family in about 18 months, I booked a flight to Scotland for early June when the Covid situation looked like it would be much improved in both the UK and Germany. 

As my family and I were fully vaccinated, it felt like the best time to visit, spend time with everyone and sort out some admin I needed to do in my home country. 

I knew there were risks – and I had to pay a lot for testing and quarantine for 10 days when arriving in Scotland – but for my own reasons it was the right time to head back. 

But as we’ve come to expect during this pandemic, nothing stays the same for long. Unfortunately the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India, began to spread in the UK in May.

And on May 21st, Germany announced it was making the UK a ‘virus variant area of concern’ – effectively banning travel –just two weeks after it had declared the UK ‘risk free’.

It plunged people’s plans into uncertainty. Those who were already in the UK worried that they wouldn’t be able to return to Germany, or stressed out over the two-week quarantine period – which is how long you have to self-isolate when returning from a ‘virus variant area of concern’ under German rules. 

We’d also been in this situation before. Germany banned travel from the UK in December just before Christmas when the Alpha variant was running rampant, leaving people – including German citizens and Brits who lived in Germany, controversially, – stranded on the border or refused entry onto flights.

READ ALSO: ‘Utter nightmare’: Brits barred from flights home to Germany amid travel chaos

Quickly, though, exceptions were put in place to allow certain groups of people – such as residents and citizens and their close family – to be able to return to Germany even if there was a general entry ban. 

As the situation can change quickly, I decided to take the risk and still travel to the UK in early June, hoping that the situation might look better later on in the month. 

The UK has a high vaccination rate – and Germany’s jabs were picking up – so for me it felt different and safer to travel in June than, for example, at Christmas when we were all much more exposed to the virus. 

Unfortunately, the restricted entry was still in place when I travelled back to Germany – although it could be lifted soon, as we learned from Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday. 

READ ALSO:

Expensive tests

Germany relaxed travel rules, particularly for vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from Covid, in May. 

For instance, anyone travelling by air into Germany has to show a negative Covid test before boarding the flight. But if you’re vaccinated or have recovered from Covid you can show evidence of that instead. 

In general, different rules are required for arrivals from countries around the world depending on their risk status, although quarantine restrictions were eased recently – particularly for fully vaccinated people.

However, the rules are still tough when coming from a virus variant area, such as the UK, India and Brazil, and – most recently – Portugal and Russia. 

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you have to show a negative PCR test (taken within 72 hours before you’re due to land in Germany) or a rapid antigen test (taken within 24 hours before landing).

A flight leaving London Heathrow. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PA Wire | Steve Parsons

The issue in the UK is that there are not many places to get tested for Covid easily, especially in smaller cities and rural areas. 

And you’ll have to pay a lot for a test. Some places charge up to £150 for a PCR test. It’s a far cry from Germany’s testing network that allows for free antigen tests and much cheaper PCR tests. 

This is, of course, on top of what you paid for the day two and day eight testing when arriving in the UK. 

What happens before travel to Germany?

Once you have your negative test, you have to register online and upload it to www.einreiseanmeldung.de.

Then you may be asked – depending on your carrier – to upload the documents before you check in online. I uploaded my negative test and the PDF of the German registration to the British Airways site on my booking page. It’s usually only after these are verified that you can check in. 

My flight down to London from Scotland wasn’t overly complicated although I was asked my reason for travelling to Germany. When I explained I was a German resident, I was told evidence of this would be checked before boarding.

It got intense when we began boarding for the flight to Berlin.

The staff put out a call asking people to get their documents ready. Passengers stood around with folders of paper and their phones at the ready. 

The airline staff checked people’s documents thoroughly, and anyone that didn’t have the right papers or an out-of-date test certificate was asked to stand aside. 

A family of three who said they were coming to Germany for a wedding were not allowed on the plane.

“Sorry, the rules have changed,” said the staff member turning the family of three away and back into the departure lounge. “Only residents and citizens are allowed.”

Other people, including a group of three women, and another group of three young men, were also refused entry onto the plane. 

A few people were told that they didn’t have the correct documents but if they filled in the online entry form they might be able to get on.

There were several heated discussions with desperate travellers at the boarding gate as others – including many native German speakers – boarded with no problems.

I don’t have my Brexit residence card yet but I’d taken my Anmeldung (address registration document) for travel. It was accepted and I was able to board the plane. 

‘The rules have changed’

Once on, the pilot said we would be late in departing because staff needed to remove luggage from the hold belonging to the people who didn’t get on the flight. 

One passenger, whose documents were scrutinised before boarding, was sitting comfortably with his seat belt on when an air steward came over and asked him to leave the plane. 

“I don’t get it,” he said in an American accent as he followed the steward down the aisle and had to get off the plane. 

Some passengers, who had come from the US and were transferring through London to Germany said they recommended avoiding the UK in future. 

“It’s more trouble than it’s worth,” said one man. 

Germany says in general travel bans from countries affected by variants also apply for transit, but check official advice from the German Foreign Office and your airline for more information. 

Back in Germany I’ve had to complete a 14-day quarantine with no option of ending it earlier. My local health office contacted me by email on the first day of isolation offering a PCR test seven to 10 days into the isolation period. They also offered the option of entering into a hotel quarantine if I lived with a high risk person.

The rules are extremely strict and not to be taken lightly. But with the announcement from the Health Minister that Germany could downgrade the risk status of the UK soon. it will likely be a very different experience for others down the line.

Another thing to keep in mind is that flights are likely to be cancelled at the moment. My original flight home to Germany was cancelled, and I know people who’ve had to find other routes back to Germany because their flights were cut from the schedule. 

A British Airways spokesman told The Local: “Like other airlines, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule. 

“We advise customers to check the latest UK Government travel advice at gov.uk and their latest flight information at ba.com.”e



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Wife of detained Richard O’Halloran wants Coveney to travel to China

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The wife of a Dublin businessman detained in China for almost three years has called on Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to travel to Beijing to plead directly for his release.

Richard O’Halloran, a 46-year-old father of four, has been blocked from leaving China since February 2019 over a legal dispute involving a Dublin-based aircraft leasing firm he works for.

His wife Tara said she had not received contact from anyone in Government or the Department of Foreign Affairs since November and she is concerned about the lack of progress in efforts to find a solution to the commercial dispute and secure Mr O’Halloran’s release.

She told The Irish Times that her children had to endure “third Christmas on FaceTime” with their father and his parents, who are in their 80s, “fear they are never going to see him”.

“We are very much at a place where we don’t know what else to do. We are really now pulling on the Government to try and do something immediately. It is nearly three years,” she said.

“We need some action. We are just asking that Simon Coveney go to China and meet face-to-face with the foreign minister or whoever it needs to be. Nothing is working that they have done in the past. We are in a place where we are really desperate.”

Last May, Mr Coveney met Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Guiyang, China as part of Ireland’s two-year membership of the UN Security Council and used the opportunity to raise the case of the businessman.

Mr O’Halloran travelled to Shanghai almost three years ago in an attempt to resolve a commercial dispute involving the Chinese owner of China International Aviation Leasing Service (CALS), the aircraft leasing company he works for.

The dispute centres over Min Jindong, the chairman and main shareholder of CALS, and his raising of funds from Chinese investors to buy an Airbus aircraft that predates Mr O’Halloran’s employment with the company. The airplane has been leased to a Finnish airline.

Mr O’Halloran testified as a witness in the prosecution of Min for fraud. The Dubliner is not suspected of any wrongdoing, nor has been charged with any crime.

The Chinese authorities are demanding the money used to buy the plane be returned to Chinese investors and Mr O’Halloran has been prohibited from leaving the country.

CALS is not in a position to repay the money. A proposal made by Irish businessman Ulick McEvaddy, who became a director of the company to try to secure Mr O’Halloran’s release, offered to make monthly payment’s to the Chinese authorities from the aircraft’s lease income.

Mr O’Halloran’s brother David wrote to Mr Coveney and other politicians last week calling for the the Government to “forcefully” demand his release through Irish, EU and UN channels.

“David came over at Christmas time to visit the family and he was just so upset by the effect that this has had on everybody,” said Tara O’Halloran.

Echoing her brother-in-law’s plea in his letter, she said her husband’s situation was “not a commercial matter or legal matter anymore – it is a human rights matter”.

Her husband was in “a very low place” and felt “abandoned,” while her children are “absolutely devastated” as they had hoped their father might have been home before Christmas.

A spokesman for the department said it was “very actively engaged” on Mr O’Halloran’s case and continued to provider consular advice, support and assistance to him.

“The department remains fully committed to this case and will remains until Mr O’Halloran is permitted to return to Ireland,” he said.

“As with all consular cases, it would not be appropriate to discuss the specific details of the case.”

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gardaí search houses in Dublin and Offaly

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Gardaí investigating the murder of national school teacher Ashling Murphy have carried out searches of properties in Dublin and Co Offaly.

Both properties are understood to be linked to a man believed to be the chief suspect in the 23-year-old’s murder.

Ms Murphy was killed by strangulation as she was jogging along a stretch of canal near Tullamore on Wednesday afternoon.

Gardaí at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where Ashling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening. Photograph: PA
Gardaí at the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where Ashling Murphy was murdered on Wednesday evening. Photograph: PA

The man attended a Dublin hospital on Thursday in the company of a family member where he received treatment for what doctors initially believed were self-inflicted wounds.

He remains in hospital under Garda supervision while detectives await medical clearance to interview him.

It is not clear when he will be physically and mentally assessed for interview but gardaí were hopeful this will happen imminently.

Ashling Murphy: The murder investigation was continuing as people in Tullamore expressed their shock and anger at the killing. Photograph: Rip.ie
Ashling Murphy: The murder investigation was continuing as people in Tullamore expressed their shock and anger at the killing. Photograph: Rip.ie

The Irish Times understands this suspect has lived in south Dublin and in the midlands, where he has family members.

His family members have told gardaí they do not believe he is capable of committing such a crime.

One property in Co Offaly, near Tullamore, has been searched. Gardaí in Dublin have also searched another house in south Dublin.

Gardaí are confident they are nearing a breakthrough in the investigation and that DNA evidence will prove crucial in their inquiries.

Gardaí believe Ms Murphy, a talented musician from the townland of Blueball just outside Tullamore, tried to fight off her attacker, resulting in the man who killed her leaving forensic evidence at the scene.

Forensic evidence was used to exonerate a man arrested on Wednesday in Tullamore and he was released without charge late on Thursday night.

Gardaí have examined the crime scene, a Falcon Storm mountain bike they suspect was used by the killer, Ms Murphy’s remains and the clothes she was wearing when she was killed.

Photograph: An Garda Síochána
Photograph: An Garda Síochána

They believe when the forensic results yielded from those examinations are cross-checked with any suspects it will prove instrumental in catching the killer.

The Falcon Storm bike they believe was used by the killer on their way to the scene was recovered after and is now a crucial piece of evidence in the case.

The killer was also seen by a number of people at the scene and statements have been taken from those eyewitnesses.

Gardaí are investigating a complaint from another woman who has told them she was followed on the canal tow path where Ms Murphy was killed about two hours before the murder.

Gardaí are also examining CCTV footage recorded around Tullamore on Wednesday looking for images of anyone riding the Falcon mountain bike.

Sources expressed satisfaction with how that part of the investigation was progressing. Gardaí have appealed to anyone who travelled between Tullamore town centre and the wider approach roads to Grand Canal Way around Cappincur on Wednesday to come forward.

They are especially keen to speak to anyone with footage of road users, including CCTV, dashcam, GoPro or mobile phone images.

Thousands of people attended vigils for Ms Murphy on Friday and over the weekend across the country. There was also a vigil held at the London Irish Centre in Camden on Saturday afternoon.

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Michael Tormey remembered as ‘gentle giant’ at Funeral Mass

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Michael Tormey, a father-of-three who was shot dead outside his home in Ballyfermot, Dublin, last Sunday, was remembered as a “gentle giant” during his Funeral Mass.

Mr Tormey, who had no known links to crime, was shot outside his home on Thomond Road in the early hours of the morning. The 49-year-old had worked as a security doorman and salesman.

Family, friends and other mourners gathered for his Funeral Mass in Our Lady of Assumption Church in Ballyfermot on Saturday.

Speaking at the Mass, his brother Brian described Mr Tormey as a “big teddy bear,” who was always generous. He recalled growing up how his brother had bought him his first Manchester United jersey. “I wore it to threads, I’ll always remember that,” he said.

Mick, as he was known, “loved belting out the tunes” on karaoke, his brother said. “He was nice, and he had nothing but laughter, I can’t understand why this was done,” he told those gathered.

Shauna, his daughter, also spoke about how her father loved to sing, and remembered how he “would sing Phil Collins with me until we had no voice left”.

She told mourners of memories of her father teaching her how to ride a bicycle, and roller blade in Marley Park, and of their favourite snacks.

“There was nobody else in the world who enjoyed a Meanies sandwich or a Burger Bites sandwich with me, and you’d always have room for more than one, I will always miss you, I will always love you,” she said.

Kaitlyn, his step-daughter, said when Mick came into her mother Amy’s life six years ago, he “changed our lives for the better”.

Fr Adrian Egan, who delivered the Funeral Mass, said Mr Tormey was a “gentle giant,” who did not have “a bad bone in him”. His life was “brutally” taken outside his own front door, he said.

He was known to be able to “talk for Ireland,” with a trip down to the shop taking upwards of two hours, on account of him stopping to chat with people along the way, he said.

The family had been “overwhelmed” by the support of the local community in Ballyfermot in the days after the killing, Fr Egan said.

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