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After holidays: Free corona tests for returning tourists will soon be history

After holidays : Free corona tests for returning tourists will soon be history

The laboratories have reached their limits because of too many corona tests. This is one of the reasons why after the vacation season it is now time to end free corona tests for holiday makers. New rules are applicable to returnees from risk areas.

Laboratories have reached their limits because of too many corona tests. This is one of the reasons why after the vacation season it is now time to end free corona tests for holiday makers. New rules are applicable to returnees from risk areas.

After the end of the summer travel season, federal and state governments want to concentrate more on hospitals and nursing homes when it comes to corona tests.

The federal and state health ministers want to abolish free tests for vacationers and compulsory tests for people returning from high-risk areas. They agreed on this in a video conference on Monday. In addition, discussions are continuing on more uniform corona rules in Germany with regard to family celebrations, fines and masks. Parallel to this, control measures will be tightened.

There had been a high level of agreement that, correctly, the tests for travellers had been expanded in the summer, said Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) after the meeting. At the same time, however, there was agreement that, with the end of the wave of return travel, capacities should again be used more in the care and hospital sectors.

Free Tests Will End

Since the end of July vacation returnees from non-risk areas in Germany can be tested free of charge for corona. The offer was well received. At highway test sites in Bavaria, for example, travellers sometimes needed a lot of patience last weekend and had to wait around two hours. "The possibility of free testing for travellers from non-risk areas will be terminated", the health ministers stated in a statement on Monday. An exact date was not given. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is expected to discuss this with the prime ministers of the German states on Thursday during the video conference. The last time the heads of the federal states and the Chancellor met to discuss joint action in the pandemic was in June.

Testing and Quarantine Compulsory

Since August 8 the following applies: Travellers who have been in risk areas must have themselves tested free of charge after entry if they cannot present their own negative test, which must be no more than 48 hours old. A negative result cancels the prescribed quarantine obligation. It is now planned that only the quarantine regulation will apply again to those entering from risk areas. This means that those affected will have to report to the public health department and enter quarantine as before. In contrast to the current regulation, however, they will only be allowed to leave the quarantine area if a test performed at the earliest five days after entry shows a negative result. Here too, it is still unclear when the new regulation will come into effect. September 15 or October 1 are under discussion.

End of Info Sheets in Planes and Traines

"To improve monitoring, a digital reporting portal is to be developed by the federal government and implemented jointly with the states," the health ministers said on Monday. Until now, travellers from high-risk areas have had to fill out forms with contact details and information on their state of health in the plane or coach. These go to the health authorities. "Boxes full of papers," the German Association of Cities had criticised. Plans now call for holiday makers to register in advance on a special Internet site and enter their data there.

Laboratories Reaching Limits

The comprehensive tests on vacationers are also being scaled back because the laboratories in Germany are now reaching their limits, both in terms of personnel and the availability of the necessary materials for the tests. Therefore the test strategy must be adapted accordingly, said a spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Health on Monday. Currently, about 875,000 corona tests are performed per week. The laboratories have a theoretical capacity of about 1.2 million.

Current Figures

As expected, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported comparatively few new corona infections on Monday. Within 24 hours, 711 cases were transmitted to the RKI, as the institute announced in the morning. On Sundays and Mondays, experience shows that the figures are lower because not all health authorities transmit data to the RKI on weekends. On the days before, the daily number of new infections had been much higher. On Saturday, 2,034 new cases were recorded, exceeding the 2,000 mark for the first time since the end of April.

More Uniformity Demanded

At the beginning of the week, Merkel's consultations with the prime ministers of the German states led to further discussions on a uniform approach to the pandemic. Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder (CSU) demanded that agreement should at least be reached on common minimum standards. As examples, he cited compulsory masks, the level of fines and the number of people attending events. "It is unacceptable that there are individual federal states that do not have fines", Söder said.

Hamburg's mayor, Peter Tschentscher (SPD), spoke out in favour of standardising the number of people allowed at private parties throughout Germany. "Uniformity is good because it is difficult enough for citizens to understand these different rules," he told ZDF's "Morgenmagazin".

More Checks and Higher Fines

At the same time, further steps to tighten the rules were already taken on Monday. Bavaria announced more controls on conditions such as the obligation to wear a mask and higher penalties for violations. In regional trains and suburban trains in North Rhine-Westphalia, a state-wide inspection campaign to ensure compliance with the masking requirement began at noon in cooperation with public order offices and the federal police. Deutsche Bahn also announced that it would take tougher action. Because of numerous violations of the mask obligation at inner-city train stations, especially in the evening, the controls are to be intensified.

Original text: (dpa)

Translation: Mareike Graepel