Airports and railway stations Government to pay for tourists’ corona tests

Berlin · To contain the pandemic, there’s a focus on holiday makers coming back to Germany from all over the world. They can be tested upon arrival. But has the last word been spoken on financing?

 Returnees stand at the Corona test stand at Tegel Airport.

Returnees stand at the Corona test stand at Tegel Airport.

Foto: dpa/Britta Pedersen

In the fight against the spread of the corona virus during the summer travel season, returning holidaymakers will soon be able to have themselves tested free of charge - the costs are likely to be borne by the state.

The federal government is to increase the subsidy to the public health insurance companies for this purpose, the Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday. A corresponding ordinance is to come into force this week. Specifically, it concerns additional tests for all returnees, which the federal and state health ministers had decided on. However, the SPD also criticised the financing at taxpayers' expense.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) told the newspapers of the Funke media group that the free tests protected everyone. "Nobody should do without them for financial reasons. Because health must not be a question of money." The tests could be done by health authorities at airports, train stations and other travel hubs - as well as in all medical practices. It must be avoided that the virus is introduced unnoticed by travellers. "Therefore, anyone entering Germany can be tested."

Especially for returnees from international risk areas with a high number of corona cases, there should even be an obligation to test on entry. Spahn has announced an order to that effect, which is to take effect next week. The Ministry has not yet named an exact date. A spokeswoman said that it should come as soon as possible so that everyone could prepare for it.

Currently, countries such as Egypt, the USA, Russia, and Turkey are counted as risk areas, which the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has identified in a list. From the EU, Luxembourg is included. Popular holiday destinations such as Italy or Austria are currently not on the list. The central criterion is in which states or regions there were more than 50 newly infected persons per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. The list is updated regularly. The Federal Foreign Office pointed out that this is not the same as its travel advice.

SPD fraction leader Rolf Mützenich supported additional tests for returnees, but voiced concerns about funding. "If the general public is now also to pay for those people who carelessly put themselves in danger by travelling to a risk area, I find that difficult", he told the editorial network Germany (Wednesday). However, he added that there are of course also comprehensible ways of travelling to risk areas, for example to meet family obligations. "We will have to talk about this and other details again.“

The Ministry plans to supplement existing rules for the assumption of costs. This is contained in a draft submitted to the German Press Agency. At first the "Spiegel" reported on it. According to the draft, all foreigners entering the country without signs of illness should be tested, as long as their entry was not more than 72 hours ago.

According to the report, the costs will initially be covered by the public health insurance companies - but the federal government could then compensate for this. This is already the case for other tests that health authorities can order even for people without symptoms. Initially, costs of 50.50 Euro per test will be assumed. It should be possible to repeat the tests up to once per person. With the new test options, it will also be possible to carry out series tests and preventive tests in schools or nursing homes at the expense of the health insurance companies.

The FDP health politician Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus welcomed the new testing possibilities. However, she said that the fact that taxpayers would have to pay for the tests of travel returnees from risk areas was the wrong signal. "Those who knowingly vacation in a risk area must also pay for the costs of the tests.“

The Left party’s expert Achim Kessler, on the other hand, said: "The fight against the pandemic is a task for society as a whole, therefore all tests must be financed from tax revenues." However, it should not be the case that holidaymakers from risk areas get tested, while nursing and hospital staff would have to manage without systematic testing possibilities.

(Original text: dpa; Translation: Mareike Graepel)
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