Germany orders coronavirus tests on risk zone arrivals from Saturday

The Health Minister says compulsory testing for people returning to Germany from risk countries will begin this weekend. It comes amid a rise of infections.

Germany orders coronavirus tests on risk zone arrivals from Saturday
A sign for free tests at Berlin Schönefeld airport. Photo: DPA

Having announced the measure last week, minister Jens Spahn said it would take effect from this weekend, as fears grow over rising case numbers blamed on summer holidays and local outbreaks.

“It is already the case that travellers from risk zones are obliged to either go into a two-week quarantine or provide an up-to-date negative test result,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

From Saturday, “travellers entering Germany will have to bring a test result with them or be tested on arrival”, he added, confirming once again that the tests would be paid for by the government.

Spahn said test stations would continue to be set up at airports, and testing facilities will also be made available when entering Germany by train or car.

The Health Minister also spoke about the “worrying” rise in infections in Germany. The latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute show there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases in 24 hours – the highest increase in three months.

READ ALSO: Germany sees more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections in one day

'Freedom always comes with responsibility'

Currently, people in Germany coming back into the country from elsewhere can be tested free of charge for the virus within 72 hours of arrival.

But the government has decided to make tests mandatory for those coming from high risk regions in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus.

Spahn, of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said imposing tests was “the safe option”. “I appreciate that this is an infringement on individual freedom, but I think it is a justifiable one,” he said.

He said it's important to look after and protect each other. “Freedom always comes with responsibility, for myself and for others,” said Spahn.

Currently, most countries in the world are classed as risk areas by Germany, including the USA and Brazil. 

In the EU, the RKI has designated Luxembourg, the Belgian region of Antwerp and some regions in northern Spain as risk areas, as well as several European countries outside the EU. Four Turkish coastal provinces, for which the Federal Foreign Office no longer issues travel warnings, are also still classified as risk areas.

READ ALSO: Which countries are Germany's imported coronavirus cases coming from?

Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday. Photo: DPA

The tests for holiday returnees are to be free of charge, said Spahn. He doesn't believe in the viewpoint that “if you can afford the holiday can afford the test”.

This, he said, called into question the solidarity approach in the German health system. Free testing has been one of Germany's “great strengths” in the coronavirus crisis, he said.

Spahn spoke out in favour of making tests obligatory also for third country nationals entering the EU. But for this, a common European solution is needed, said the CDU politician. So far, the only obligation for third country nationals is quarantine.

READ ALSO: Can you be forced to take a coronavirus test after returning to Germany from a risk country?

A warning against tourist travel outside the EU is still in place in Germany until August 31st.

'The pandemic is not over yet'

For the first time since May, the RKI reported on Thursday over a thousand infections within one day. With 1,045 new cases, the total number rose to over 213,000. Spahn spoke of a “worrying increase in the number of infections”.

He said the increased coronavirus case numbers were also down to the expansion of testing.

Around 195,000 people are now considered to have recovered from coronavirus in Germany.

In view of the rise, Spahn appealed for people to stick to the rules.

“Let's stay alert, let's follow the rules.” Where the virus has a chance, it spreads and doesn't consider the holiday season, Spahn warned.

Keeping your distance, wearing a mouth and nose cover, washing your hands is a “small price to pay”, considering how quickly the pandemic could spread, he said.

READ ALSO: 'Target clusters and superspreaders': Here's how Germany could prevent a second coronavirus wave

Spahn added that the situation has been kept under control in Germany “because we were level-headed, and vigilant”, but that no-one should lull themselves into a false sense of security.

At the moment, several small outbreaks have been reported following family celebrations or in the workplace.

“The pandemic is not yet over,” Spahn continued. Now the holidays are slowly coming to an end, many people are returning from vacation. Therefore, there is a danger that the number of infections will continue to rise.

Member comments

  1. It is okay to have compulsory tests. But are the travellers allowed to go home after the test? Or should they remain in airport until the results come? Please clarify me.

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Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.