Germany’s new rules requiring every unvaccinated person returning from abroad to have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test came into force this weekend.
And although many travellers were prepared, some people weren’t able to show proof of being fully vaccinated, recovery from Covid-19 within the last six months or a negative test.
During spot checks at the A3 near Passau, Bavaria, on Sunday, for instance, 110 people were unable to present proof.
At the A93 border checkpoint at Kiefersfelden, also Bavaria, those who were stopped complied with the new rules.
“Where are you coming from and where are you going?” the federal police asked people in their cars on Sunday during spot checks.
A lot of cars were packed with families – but there were also people sitting alone in their vehicles.
Some were travelling through Germany – for example returning from a holiday in Italy to the Netherlands. Others were crossing the border while trying to get from from Innsbruck to Salzburg.
These travellers are allowed to cross the border without being checked – the new testing obligation does not apply to people travelling through Germany without stopping. Neither does it apply to commuters, or for short stays of less than 24 hours.
The rule applies to everyone over the age of 12 who is not fully vaccinated against the virus, or who has not recovered in the past six months.
Previously, everyone travelling by air was expected to provide a negative test result or proof of vaccination/recovery before arriving in Germany. The new regulation extends the rule to all rail, sea and road entries.
People coming back to Germany from their vacation have to comply with the rules.
“Have you been vaccinated, tested or recovered?” police asked road users.
“We have a pandemic, and if they want to see proof, I have no problem with that,” one motorcyclist told Bavarian broadcaster BR24.
“The check is quick, we had ourselves tested in Austria,” said a man who crossed the border in a motor home. “Fortunately, we knew about it beforehand.”
Some people questioned why the mandatory testing rule for everyone entering the country by all modes of transport is only coming into place now – when the travel season is in full swing.
Other people were surprised that only the unvaccinated have to submit a negative test, when experts say vaccinated people can also transmit the virus.
One woman felt irritated because she had to pay €80 to get tested for Covid-19 in Croatia and was not even checked by police on arrival. In Germany, rapid Covid testing is free.
The Interior Minister said that border police would be conducting spot checks at land borders in order to minimise traffic jams at a time when many Germans are returning from summer vacations abroad.
Several violations in Passau at Austrian border
At the Rottal-Ost Autobahn, 220 travellers were checked and 110 unvaccinated people were found not to have proof of a negative test.
Among them were three full coaches, where there were several violations of the test obligation.
People entering Germany who have not been tested are requested to travel immediately to a coronavirus test centre, and can be ordered to pay a fine.
Germany’s 16 states set the fines for violations. In Bavaria, for instance, people who flout the Covid entry regulations can face around €500 to €2,000, reported media outlet NordBayern.
Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann urged people on Sunday to take the new entry rules seriously. He said people can face a fine of up to €25,000 in severe cases.
Checks on trains
Passengers travelling by train into Germany are also being checked randomly, usually by conductors rather than federal police.
On Sunday, Spiegel reported that a woman on a train from Krakow in Poland to Berlin, who was unvaccinated and didn’t have a negative Covid test, was asked for proof by the conductor.
She was asked to take a Covid test as soon as she arrived in Berlin – but this was not followed up.
Critics say the new rules have come in too late and are difficult to enforce.