NEW: Bavaria to reopen pubs and ditch Autobahn test centres

The southern German state is set to get rid of several test centres, enforce new face mask rules and allow bars and pubs to reopen fully after the coronavirus shutdown.

NEW: Bavaria to reopen pubs and ditch Autobahn test centres
Bavarian premier Markus Söder on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

State premier Markus Söder, of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Angela Merkel's CDU, announced on Tuesday that the state will scrap the coronavirus test centres on motorways at the border, as well as in Munich and Nuremberg train stations.

According to the cabinet, testing capacity that becomes free will instead be diverted “on demand” to other test centres such as those in districts and cities. 

However, the test stations at Munich, Nuremberg and Memmingen airports will remain in place.

The test hubs earmarked for closure will shut by the end of the summer travel season on September 30th.

It comes after repeated complaints about delays in getting coronavirus test results. Bavaria came under fire when it emerged in mid-August around 44,000 out of 85,000 people hadn't yet been told of their results over a week after being tested.

Among the results were at least 900 positive tests. The state government said that problems with the manual input of data and a high uptake of the service was to blame for the delay.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Bavaria's testing fiasco

'Over five days to get our test results'

The Local Germany reader Scott McLaughlin, based in Munich, told how he had to wait more than five days to get results for him and his family after a roadside test. Authorities had reassured him that test results would be available in one to two days.

The family was returning from the south of France, which became a high risk zone at the end of August while they were still there.

“There were no testing facilities along the A96 on our way home to Munich, and we had heard conflicting reports about whether people without a train ticket could be tested at Hauptbahnhof,” McLaughlin told The Local.
“So we ended up driving about an hour and a half out of our way to be tested off of the A93 near Brannenburg. While the test itself was easy and we were back on the road in under 20 minutes, it took over five days for us to get our test results.  I've never checked my email as frequently as I did during those five days, awaiting the news that we could be released from our home prison.”
McLaughlin and his family were glad to receive negative results.
On Tuesday Söder defended the Bavarian testing strategy. “The test strategy was absolutely important and right,” he said.
He added that tests would remain free of charge in future.

What else is new in Bavaria?

At outdoor gatherings, compulsory face coverings are to become a regular feature in Bavaria as early as this Wednesday, September 9th. The obligation will take effect with events with 200 people or more, the cabinet decided.

And those who've been missing Kneipe (pub) culture in Bavaria can mark this date in the calendar: from September 19th, bars and pubs will be allowed to open again under strict conditions.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus rules – what's allowed (and what isn't) in Bavaria?

According to the cabinet decision, pubs and bars will have to stick to the same rules as restaurants. In restaurants staff have to get the contact details of customers so they can be informed if there is an outbreak. Face masks are also required when people are away from their table.

In bars, table service will also have to be in force. Clubs, which Söder called “infectious bombs” will have to remain closed.

Up until this point, beer gardens or pubs with outdoor areas have only been allowed to open.

Also from September 19th amateur football and other sporting events can go ahead.

Bavaria has implemented stricter coronavirus rules compared to other states in Germany as it is the region hardest hit by the pandemic.

As of Tuesday there were 59,298 cases reported in the region, with 284 new cases within 24 hours.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now