Germany mulls compulsory coronavirus tests for returning travellers

Germany may introduce compulsory coronavirus testing for holidaymakers returning from high-risk destinations, the health minister said.

Germany mulls compulsory coronavirus tests for returning travellers
A picture taken on June 30, 2020 at the airport in Frankfurt am Main shows a sign indicating the way to a walk-in testing centre. AFP

As the number of new infections in the country hit a two-month high the German government is under pressure to take precautions.

Health Minister Jens Spahn told Deutschlandfunk radio the government were looking into whether they could legally oblige someone to take a test.

“We are also checking whether it is legally possible to oblige someone to do a test, because it would be an encroachment on freedom,” Spahn said, according to Reuters.

The minister said the courts were examining all coronavirus measures to ensure they are proportionate in light of their impact on people's rights.

On Friday, Germany announced it would offer free coronavirus tests to all returning travellers, as concerns grow over a surge due to summer travel.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about travelling from Germany to other European countries

“Those returning from risk countries should be tested, and those returning from non-risk countries will also have the option,” said Berlin health minister Dilek Kalayci after the measures were agreed by the health ministers of Germany's 16 states.

She said the tests would initially be non-mandatory and the cost would be covered by the state in all cases.

If a holidaymaker arriving home from a high-risk country including the US, Brazil and India, tests negative they will not have to observe a 14-day quarantine, which is otherwise mandatory.

Those who refuse a test or test positive on arrival will be forced to quarantine at home for 14 days.

The number of new confirmed cases increased sharply on Friday to 815, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

That represented the biggest tally since mid-May. On Saturday there were 781 reported new cases. 


Member comments

  1. Testing is wonderful. Thank you to those for making it possible.

    And let’s also be realistic…
    We all need to get back to work in Germany and not go on holiday abroad where we can catch corona and bring it back. The focus has to be on everyone working again, contributing to the economy and not relying on government handouts.

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.