Alarmed over recently emerged strains of coronavirus which are said to be more infectious, Germany is mulling taking the drastic step of cutting all international air travel in and out of the country to "almost zero," according to the AFP.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced Tuesday the government is now reviewing the implementation of further "drastic measures" amid restrictions in the country which took effect in November. He cited the example of Israel which recently went to a full-on 2nd lockdown of the entire country.
"The danger from the numerous virus mutations forces us to consider drastic measures," Seehofer said to the Bild newspaper. "That includes significantly stricter border checks, especially at the borders of high-risk areas, but also reducing air travel to Germany to almost zero, as Israel is currently doing," he added.
"The people in Germany who accept the tough restrictions expect us to protect them as best we can from an explosion in infection numbers," Seehofer said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to back a plan that would effectively shut down all borders, saying in new comments the government will take "certain precautions at border," according to her address before a meeting of conservative CDU/CSU bloc lawmakers.
"Everyone understands that now is not the time to travel," she added. Currently Germany has had over two million COVID-19 infections and more than 52,000 deaths from the virus.
A week ago Merkel announced that renewed pandemic restrictions, especially the closure of schools and 'non-essential' stores and markets, would last until at least mid-February.
BREAKING Germany is considering to stop all international flights https://t.co/xJiLg9prI5— AIRLIVE (@airlivenet) January 26, 2021
The proposal of shutting off borders altogether also comes as there's been widespread disappointment at the slowness of a vaccine rollout in Europe, also amid worrisome reports of severe adverse effects and even deaths among elderly patients reportedly from the shot, particularly out of Norway in the middle of this month amid the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
A ban on most or all international flights would have immediate and major repercussions for the aviation industry and global travel, given Germany remains a central international hub of flights across Europe but also the rest of the world, including to the Middle East and Africa.