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UPDATE 2-Germany considering entry restrictions to stop mutant viruses

(Adds Merkel comments)

BERLIN, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The German government is discussing drastically reducing travel from abroad in a bid to prevent more virulent mutant variants of the coronavirus finding a foothold in the country, officials said on Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told her parties’ legislators that she did not want a travel ban, but with the pandemic raging this winter there should be no tourism, sources told Reuters.

Interior minister Horst Seehofer earlier told the Bild newspaper that Merkel had asked him to examine ways of limiting the scope for mutant variants to enter Germany.

Measures considered included closing borders with regions where the new variants were more prevalent and reducing the number of flights to almost zero.

“To the extent possible, no tourist travel should be taking place,” Merkel told legislators from her party at a closed meeting. Merkel has repeatedly called for tourism to be curtailed during the pandemic, with mixed success.

“The risk posed by these virus mutations demands of us that we consider even drastic measures,” Seehofer told Bild. “They include stricter border controls, especially at frontiers with high-risk regions, but also a reduction of air traffic to Germany to almost zero, as Israel is currently doing.” (Reporting by Thomas Escritt; editing by Thomas Seythal and Giles Elgood)

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