“From August 1st, all people entering Germany will be obliged to have proof of a negative test, vaccination or recovery,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement.
“This rule is there to keep the number of new infections brought into Germany as low as possible,” said Demmer, adding that it would apply to all travellers over the age of 12.
“All unvaccinated people entering Germany will have to be tested in future – regardless of whether they come by plane, car or train,” Spahn said in a statement.
According to a draft seen by AFP, there will be exceptions for cross-border commuters and those passing through in transit.
Both PCR tests taken within 72 hours of entry and rapid antigen tests taken within a maximum of 48 hours will be accepted, the draft said.
They will apply to travellers “regardless of where they have come from and the means of transport they use,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Funke media group.
Under current German rules, any unvaccinated person entering the country by plane must get tested, but those entering by road or rail must not unless they are coming from an area deemed high risk.
Those entering from so-called virus variant countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, must get tested even if they are vaccinated – a rule set to remain unchanged according to the draft.
Police have said the rules will not be enforced through systematic border controls, but through random checks.
Regular checks ‘can hardly be managed’
Regional leaders in Germany’s border regions, especially Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate, had been calling for tighter travel measures in recent days.
But some have questioned how the new rules on testing will function logistically, given the vast amount of entry points to Germany via road and rail.
In an interview with the Funke Media Group, police union chairman Andreas Roßkopf warned that the border police would be unable to cope with the new rules.
“We have over 3,800 kilometers of land border,” he said. “If we are supposed to check them regularly on a random basis, that can hardly be managed.”
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) told ARD that “most people think tests are a good thing”. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralild | Soeren Stache
Speaking on ARD Tagesthemen on Friday, Finance Minister and chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz (SPD) defended the move, saying the majority of Germans would comply with the rules regardless if they were likely to be checked or not.
“Lots of people think it’s a good thing that they can get tested to ensure they don’t infect other people,” he said.
“It’s about protecting the health of the people of this nation.”
More than 2,500 infections within a day
Germany has seen low infection numbers over the summer compared to many of its European neighbours, but cases have been creeping up over the past few weeks, largely fuelled by the Delta variant.
The country recorded 2,454 new cases in the past 24 hours on Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), and an incidence rate of 17 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days — up from a low of 4.6 in early July.
With the country’s vaccination campaign running out of steam, the debate has been heating up around possible restrictions for the unvaccinated, though compulsory vaccination for parts of the population has so far been ruled out.
On Thursday, the RKI revealed that thousands of infections had arrived in Germany from abroad during the summer holidays.
More than 3,600 travellers came back to the country with Covid between June 28th and July 25th, the health agency revealed, with the vast majority coming from Turkey, Spain, Croatia, Greece and the Netherlands.