Spahn said that he would “order compulsory testing for travellers returning from risk areas” in a bid to stall the spread of the virus in Germany, as concerns grow over a surge due to summer travel.
This would serve to protect all citizens, he said. “We must prevent travel returnees from infecting others unnoticed and thus triggering new chains of infection,” said the politician who's a member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).
The tests are to be free of charge for travellers.
Germany's public health institute RKI currently considers around 130 nations worldwide to be “risk countries”, with EU and Schengen area neighbours among the exceptions.
Spahn announced the plans to his counterparts from the federal states in a conference. According to the proposals, the testing obligation is based on a rule under the Protection against Infection Law. It refers to an 'epidemic situation of national importance', which the Bundestag had determined for coronavirus.
It means the Federal Ministry can make sure people who enter Germany after being exposed to an increased risk of infection can be ordered to undergo a medical examination. The corresponding regulation is expected to come into force next week.
Several federal states had previously spoken out in favour of a compulsory test for returning travellers.
(article continues below)
See also on The Local:
On Friday, Germany announced it would offer free coronavirus tests to all returning travellers and had been considering if it would make them mandatory for people coming back from areas deemed high risk.
Amid the deliberations over summer travel, some 500 workers have been sent into quarantine on a large Bavarian farm in order to contain a mass coronavirus outbreak.
At least 174 seasonal workers have tested positive for the virus on the farm in the municipality of Mamming, most of them from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine.
Germany has fared better than many of its neighbours in suppressing the virus, reporting just over 200,000 cases and around 9,100 deaths to date, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.
But the country has also been hit by repeated coronavirus outbreaks at slaughterhouses, keeping authorities on high alert.