Blinken to travel to Ukraine and Germany this week


In Kyiv, Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba “to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

In Berlin, Blinken will “discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including Allies’ and partners’ readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia.”

Blinken will meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, followed by a meeting with the Transatlantic Quad, which also includes the UK and France, according to Price.

Blinken’s visit follows last week’s diplomatic talks between the West and Russian officials that ended without a commitment from Russia that it would deescalate and pull back the tens of thousands of troops it amassed on the Ukrainian border, leading a senior US official to warn that the “drumbeat of war was sounding loud.”

Ahead of the top US diplomat’s travels to Kyiv, Blinken spoke on Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about last week’s diplomatic engagements and “stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military build-up in and near Ukraine,” Price said in a readout of the call.

The US has been assuring Ukraine of its commitment to the country, amid new warning signs and US intelligence that suggest Russia is preparing a Ukraine invasion.

The US has information indicating Russia has prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to create a pretext for an invasion, which CNN first reported and the White House later confirmed. These operatives are “trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s own proxy forces,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
Russia has also begun evacuating its embassy in the Ukrainian capital, which could potentially be preparation for a looming conflict, The New York Times reported. Russia has denied the report and said the embassy is operating as usual.
Blinken will be the latest US official to visit with Zelensky, after CIA Director Bill Burns met with the Ukrainian leader last week and a delegation of US senators met with Zelensky on Monday.

This story has been updated.



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Blinken to travel to Ukraine and Germany this week | News


Originally Published: 18 JAN 22 07:14 ET

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ukraine and Germany this week as the Russian threat toward Ukraine continues to loom.

In Kyiv, Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba “to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

In Berlin, Blinken will “discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including Allies’ and partners’ readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia.”

“The Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, followed by a meeting with the Transatlantic Quad,” Price said.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

The-CNN-Wire

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.



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Blinken to travel to Ukraine and Germany this week


By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ukraine and Germany this week as the Russian threat toward Ukraine continues to loom.

In Kyiv, Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba “to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

In Berlin, Blinken will “discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including Allies’ and partners’ readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia.”

“The Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, followed by a meeting with the Transatlantic Quad,” Price said.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.



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Germany loosens omicron travel restrictions for UK, South Africa | News | DW


Germany on Tuesday ended its strict rules for travelers entering from a series of countries with particularly high rates of omicron infections.

The nine countries, including Britain and South Africa — as well as several other southern African states — had been placed on the list of areas of variant concern in late 2021.

All the countries have been downgraded to the list of high-risk areas. While this category still places restrictions on travelers, these are lighter for vaccinated people.

What are the rule changes?

The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) had already announced on Thursday that starting Tuesday, no more countries would be put on the variant concern list because of omicron.

The highly infectious variant was first recorded in southern Africa and quickly spread around the world.

The UK has been one of the countries worst hit by omicron, with cases soaring record highs. The high rate of infection has subsequently been recorded in several other countries, including Germany’s EU neighbors France and Denmark.

The restrictions for travelers entering Germany from countries on the list of areas of variant concern included a mandatory 14-day quarantine — with no option of shortening it with proof of vaccination or negative test.

It also limited entry to German citizens or the country’s residents from areas of variant concern.

Under the rules for travelers from high-risk areas, people who can show proof of vaccination do not need to isolate. Unvaccinated travelers need to quarantine for 10 days but can shorten it to five if they test negative.

Risks of omicron

Germany had previously brought down a surge in coronavirus cases in November and early December after implementing a series of restrictions aimed particularly at unvaccinated people.

However, cases have once again begun to climb, with the RKI recording a rise in the previous four days.

Although early reports suggest that the omicron variant has milder effects than previous forms of the virus, its highly contagious nature risks overwhelming health services.

Almost 40% of people in Germany have received a booster vaccine already, which data suggests offers increased protection. However, around 25% of people remain unvaccinated.

ab/fb (AFP, dpa)





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9 Things To Know Before Your First Trip To Nuremberg, Germany


If you’re planning to go and discover Nuremberg, Germany, you are in for a travel treat. Historic Nuremberg, with the Pegnitz River running through it, offers a picturesque Old Town complete with half-timbered buildings, winding lanes, a landmark castle, little shops, hanging flower baskets, and beer gardens.

As the second-largest city in Bavaria, Nuremberg is big enough to provide many choices for dining, stores with anything you may want, and a modern transportation system. At the same time, it’s small enough to feel cozy. Within the medieval walls, you will soon learn your way around and easily walk anywhere. The friendly people are a plus, too. 

Here are things to know before your visit, so that you can fill your time with what interests you most. It’s an easy city to navigate, so your planning will involve less practical information and more about which sights you want to see. If you are lucky enough to stay even two days, you will be able to experience much of Nuremberg. 

Medieval wall in Nuremburg.
Sharon Odegaard

Center Your Visit In The Old Town 

The 3-mile medieval wall finished in 1400 surrounds the Old Town, with 2.5 miles of it intact. Stay within the walled area for the atmosphere, cobblestone streets, and old pubs. You can opt for modern hotel chains that lie just outside the wall, but why not experience historic Nuremberg instead? 

I stayed at an inn that dates to 1342, the Hotel Elch. The character of the building is preserved along with contemporary updates. The family-run inn features not only comfortable lodging but also helpful front desk people who can recommend restaurants within walking distance. 

The Imperial Castle in Nuremberg.
Sharon Odegaard

Put A Tour Of The Imperial Castle Of Nuremberg At The Top Of Your List 

The stone tower, visible from anywhere in the Old Town, is part of the Imperial Castle, a must-see in Nuremberg. This stately castle was built in sections beginning in the year 1037. For centuries it housed German royalty who would travel from castle to castle, having no permanent residence. 

Much of the Imperial Castle fell victim to World War II bombs. It’s been restored in the original style. The impressive Sinwell Tower miraculously escaped destruction. You can climb the winding wooden staircase inside to the top and know that those stairs likely date to the 18th century. 

Other notable castle areas include the garden outside the castle walls. Note the circular bed in the middle of the garden, with its blooms surrounded by maple trees. 

The Bower building in the courtyard houses the Imperial Castle Museum. Explore the history of the castle, military aspects of that history, and archeological findings from the castle grounds. 

The deep well next to the tower displays the method of assuring a water supply. In case of a siege, a castle’s access to water meant life or death. The well goes down more than 160 feet into solid rock. Imagine pulling off that feat of engineering in the 14th century. 

Pro Tip: Climb to the top of the tower if you are able to handle the stairs and take in the breathtaking view of Nuremberg. The sea of red tile roofs below is quite a sight. 

Art Bunker in Nuremberg.
Sharon Odegaard

Go Underground At The Art Bunker 

You can go under the Imperial Castle as well as touring it above ground. And this is a fascinating tour that allows you to see the Art Bunker as it was during World War II.

Since the 14th century, according to the records, the rock beneath the castle has covered underground vaults and passageways with a total area of about 82,000 square feet. When you make your way along the tunnels, remember that these are not natural caves. Workers laboriously dug them out of the native rock. And the purpose involved beer. Because of their cool temperature, these cellars — going as far as four stories down — were ideal for making and storing beer.

When WWII broke out, Germans searched for hiding places for art, stained-glass windows, jewels, and other treasures. The tunnel system under the castle was the perfect hideout. Guards on duty round the clock ate and slept in the tunnels. You will see their bunks still there today. At war’s end, the valuables were returned to other countries or kept in Nuremberg. The stained-glass windows from cathedrals, for example, were put back in place.

To tour the bunker, buy tickets around the corner. Check the website for hours, as tours may be offered only once a day.

Shopping in Nuremberg.
Sharon Odegaard

Shop Till You Drop In Nuremberg 

Nuremberg is a shopping mecca for people who live anywhere nearby. And when you visit, you too can shop to your heart’s content.  

Find stores with name brands and trendy merchandise along Nuremberg’s best-known shopping street, the Karolinenstrasse. The Kaiserstrasse is an elegant section of luxury stores and designer fashion. If you’re looking for something quirky or eccentric, shop along the Breite Gasse. 

Check the city’s website for more information on shopping. 

Pro Tip: Head to Karolinenstrasse to find items you may not have packed but need for your trip. I arrived in Nuremberg in October and wasn’t prepared for the chilly temperatures. I ran into a store and picked up a merino wool scarf that I ended up wearing every day, as well as a merino wool sweater that kept me warm. 

Rally Grounds in Nuremberg.
Sharon Odegaard

Explore World War II History At The Documentation Center And Rally Grounds 

Nuremberg holds a remarkable place in the history of Germany in WWII. One reason is that Adolf Hitler built rally grounds here where he conducted massive Nazi Party rallies from 1933 to 1938. The acres of grounds sit vacant, and you can walk around them and imagine what took place there. Adjacent is an excellent museum. Together these sights are known as the Documentation Center and Rally Grounds. The exhibitions give a comprehensive picture of the National Socialist dictatorship as well as the history of the rallies. The museum occupies a building Hitler started but never finished. The museum was created with the hope that by showing what happened, such horror would never happen again. 

Visit The Courtroom Where The Nuremberg Trials Took Place

If you are interested in WWII history, plan to go to the Palace of Justice, where the Nuremberg Trials took place in 1945 and 1946. The Nuremberg Trials Memorial, an information and documentation center, is on the top floor of the courthouse. And the actual location of the trials, courtroom 600, is still in use. 

German Railway Museum in Nuremberg.
Sharon Odegaard

On A Rainy Day, Head To The Train Museum

If rain is in the forecast, spend time inside at the German Railway Museum. Nuremberg has been a rail hub for two centuries. This museum is built on old tracks and contains full-size retired train cars as well as displays on trains through the decades. A viewing gallery provides seating while you marvel at the large model railroad. Check times for a demonstration by the master engineer. You are sure to enjoy the romance of the vintage trains in this fine museum. And you’ll be dry and warm, too. 

Relax With The Efficient Transportation Options 

Public transportation options both to Nuremberg and within the city are extensive and efficient. If you are coming by train, you can choose either the Inter-City-Express (ICE) trains, which are the fastest and most luxurious, or the Inter-City (IC) and Euro-City (EC) trains. These regional trains are often slower but cost less. Plan your journey using the Deutsche Bahn website. 

The Nuremberg Airport is a few miles out of town. You can take an underground train from the airport to the central train station. 

You can walk from the train station to your accommodations if you are staying in the Old Town. If you would rather not walk with your luggage, opt for public transportation or a taxi. 

Once in Nuremberg, you can take buses, the underground, and the tram to go wherever you like. Find information and tips and plan your routes at the VGN website

With the Nuremberg Card, all public transportation is free. Look on the website to see what other attractions you plan to visit and calculate whether this would be a good buy for your trip. 

Pro Tip: Buy your train ticket for the next leg of your Europe journey when you arrive by train in Nuremberg. If you wait until you leave, the ticket may be more expensive. 

Come For Magical Christmas Cheer 

The Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt is world famous. It’s one of the oldest and most popular Christmas Markets. Wooden booths form “the little city of wood and cloth” and take over the cobblestone streets to form a magical holiday celebration. Mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted almonds smell delicious. More than 180 stands offer sweet treats, drinks, toys and games, and decorations. 

The Christmas Market on the Main Square of Nuremberg’s Old Town opens the first Sunday in Advent. Plan your visit far ahead, if possible, so you can find lodging. Then go and enjoy a sparkling holiday. 

Nuremberg is a pleasant blend of centuries of history and modern life. You can savor a meal at the Goldenes Posthorn, built in 1498 and still serving delicious dishes. Wander on ancient lanes and shop for the latest model designer watch. Stay in an inn dating back hundreds of years with convenient Internet and same-day laundry services. Walk in the shadows of St. Sebaldus Church and its twin steeples. Take a day trip to nearby Rothenburg. You’ll have no problems filling your stay with amazing memories. 

I first went to Nuremberg as a late addition to a European itinerary. It was a convenient stop along the train line from point A to point B. I later went back because I fell in love with Nuremberg. I think you will love it, too.

Centuries of history blend with modern life in this quaint German city, one of many idyllic destinations in Bavaria:



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Covid news: UK may join US and Germany in restricting travel to Spain due to record surge | World | News


Spain: British expat questions enforcement of Covid passes

Germany said it was adding Spain to its list of COVID-19 risk areas. It followed the US urging American nationals and residents to avoid trips there. As two of the world’s largest economies are making it harder for unvaccinated travellers to visit the Iberian nation, questions have arisen over the UK’s stance.

The tightened approach towards travel to Spain comes at a tough time. On Thursday, a new daily infection record with nearly 73,000 new registered cases was set.

It was Spain’s third consecutive record high in three days.

Further, the national 14-day contagion rate jumped to its highest level this year – 911 new cases per 100,000 residents.

The days ahead of Christmas Eve, residents could be seen seeking to determine whether they are contagious, which resulted in long queues and a shortage of tests.

Since Friday, mask-wearing outdoors, with few exceptions, is mandatory again. In Catalonia, a 1am to 6am curfew has been imposed.

READ MORE: British expats will need more cash for their 2022 Spain & Portugal move – visa change

Travel to Spain

Amid a grim Covid scenario in Spain, travel from the UK could be affected (Image: Getty)

Woman wearing a mask in Spain

Masks on: Face coverings are mandatory outdoors again in Spain (Image: Getty)

On Monday, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved Spain into its highest travel risk level, the Level 4 category.

The health body advised citizens to “avoid tavel” to Spain. However, “if you must travel to Spain, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel”, it stated.

The CDC added: “Because of the current situation in Spain, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

In early November, the US lifted Covid travel restrictions on fully-vaccinated passengers from Spain who agreed to getting tested before travel.

Even though this still applies, further restrictions cannot be ruled out as the Biden administration seeks to contain the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

Spain's top tourist destinations

Travel to Spain, a big favourite for British holidaymakers, could be restricted (Image: Daily Express)

The UK on December 15 removed all countries from its travel red list, meaning entry for people from places such Botswana, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, which the Government considered of concern given Omicron was first detected in South Africa, is unrestricted.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the decision came in response to the strain’s incredibly rapid spread across the world. The list, he argued, no longer made sense.

The Ministry stated: “As Omicron cases rise in the UK and in countries around the world, the travel red list is less effective in slowing the incursion of the variant from abroad and these temporary measures are no longer proportionate.”

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Travel ban: Epidemiologist says ‘closing borders does not work’

While the move signals a more relaxed approach to travel than that taken by other nations, suggesting no further restrictions will be imposed to those arriving in the UK or those aiming to leave, Covid case numbers and hospitalisations are significantly higher now than 10 days ago, which could lead to changes.

On Friday morning, according to Government figures, 122,186 cases of coronavirus had been recorded — another record number of daily cases — and 137 deaths within 28 days of testing positive had been registered.

Meanwhile, the NHS warned of a big rise in the number of COVID-19 hospitalisations after 1,171 people across the UK had to be admitted.

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Daily hospital admissions with Covid have gone up by over 40 percent in the last week in England [from 815 to 1,098] and this is really worrying for health leaders whose teams are working flat out in the context of rising staff absences and wider pressures.”

While ministers said they were not planning to announce any post-Christmas coronavirus restrictions this week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said No10 would “keep the situation under review”, and sources told The Guardian leaders are expected to assess new modelling from the University of Warwick.

It was given to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in documents published on Thursday and has reportedly raised concerns among Government officials – hinting the UK might return to step 2 Covid guidelines from December 28 or January 1.





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CDC gives Germany and Denmark Level 4 travel warning


The countries were given a Level 4 warning, which means the CDC is recommending that Americans avoid traveling there, even if vaccinated. They join other European destinations on the Level 4 list, including some that were added recently — Hungary, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Guernsey last week — and others that have been on the list for months, such as Britain.



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Germany Tightens Travel Restrictions on UK | Health News


VIENNA (AP) — Germany is tightening travel restrictions for people coming from Britain in response to the rapid spread of the omicron variant there.

The country’s national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, added Britain to its list of “virus variant areas” late Saturday. This means anyone traveling from the U.K. to Germany must enter a mandatory quarantine for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.

The new restrictions, which will go into effect at midnight Sunday, come as the U.K. reports a record high number of new coronavirus infections. On Saturday, the country saw 90,418 new cases.

The U.K. joins eight African countries, including South Africa, on Germany’s list of “virus variant areas.”

The Robert Koch Institute’s announcement comes in the wake of tightened restrictions for other countries across Europe as the continent faces a fourth wave of infections.

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Starting Sunday, France and Denmark are considered “high risk areas,” meaning those who are not vaccinated or recovered from the virus must quarantine for 10 days. Dozens of countries, including nearly all of Germany’s direct neighbors, have now been added to this category.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Germany: incoming minister advises against Christmas travel


Germany’s incoming transport minister is advising people against traveling over Christmas as the country tries to stem a wave of coronavirus infections

Federal and state leaders on Thursday announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people, preventing them from entering nonessential stores, restaurants, sports and cultural venues. In a longer-term move, parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate.

“Winter 2021 will be more dramatic than winter 2020,” he added.

The new government under center-left Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz is expected to take office on Wednesday, subject to the three parties that will form it signing off on their coalition deal and Scholz winning the backing of a parliamentary majority.

At least 68.9% of Germans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, short of the government’s aim of a minimum 75% vaccination rate. The shortfall has been blamed as a key factor in a surge of new virus cases in recent weeks.

Official figures suggest that the infection rate may now be stabilizing, but at too high a level. On Sunday, the national disease control center reported 42,055 new daily cases and a seven-day infection rate of 439.2 new cases per 100,000 residents. Another 94 deaths in 24 hours brought Germany’s confirmed total in the pandemic to 103,040.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel made a last direct appeal to Germans to get vaccinated on Saturday, saying that a resurgence in deaths is “so bitter because it is avoidable.”

———

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic



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