“The aim is to make travel possible again, but the pandemic fixes borders”

13.05.2021 - Interview

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the Funke Mediengruppe

Many people in Germany are getting more hopeful – of an end to the pandemic, of a normal holiday. What foreign travel will be possible at Whitsun?

We can hope that life will soon get back to normal, if the infection rates keep falling and the vaccination campaign makes progress. That doesn’t mean that all the restrictions will be lifted at Whitsun or in the following weeks, but I am working on the assumption that we will be living under “more normal” conditions in the summer – and that includes summer holidays. Of course the aim is to make travel possible again. But the pandemic fixes the borders. A look at India or South America, for example, is enough to show that the fight against the virus is far from over.

Is there a risk of a two-class society when it comes to travel, if those who have been vaccinated will have more freedoms than others?

At the moment I am proceeding from the assumption that with comprehensive testing and hygiene protocols, even those who have not been vaccinated will have the chance to go on holiday in the summer. But this discussion not only goes far beyond the question of travel; unfortunately here in Germany just now it is often also at odds with the facts. We are not talking about giving people who have been vaccinated special rights, but rather of easing restrictions on fundamental rights where these restrictions are no longer justified. The virus still poses a very real danger to people who have not been vaccinated. I am confident that we will be able to put up with this temporary inequality – not least because people have repeatedly shown solidarity throughout the pandemic.

Can travellers rely on the Federal Foreign Office if they get stranded somewhere in the world?

People can always rely on our 200‑plus embassies and consulates around the world in an emergency, even during the pandemic. Anyone who gets stranded will receive help and advice until they can travel home. However, there will not be another repatriation programme like last spring, not least because the situation now is very different. Because, unlike back then, every single one of us has come to know what the virus is like. Travel companies and airlines, too, have had the chance to adapt to the situation. Unlike last year, no one today, in 2021, should be surprised if the pandemic worsens in certain countries.

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