German Health Minister Jens Spahn is planning compulsory coronavirus tests for travelers entering the country, regardless of where they travel from, Funke Media Group reported on Tuesday.
The ministry is aiming for "an expansion of test requirements upon entry as quickly as possible," according to a document seen by the media group. The goal is to curb the recent rapid rise in infections, especially with the highly contagious delta variant.
Currently, air passengers and people entering from high-risk areas are obliged to provide a negative test or proof that they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from an infection.
Compulsory testing already in the works
The new rule would set a blanket requirement, not just limited to high-risk areas or certain types of transport, the report said. But it is unclear whether the change would apply to fully vaccinated people.
"The coordination in the government on this is underway," a Health Ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht opposed the plan, considering blanket testing disproportionate, according to the Funke report.
The news of the plan comes shortly after German lawmakers and officials clashed over proposals to extend freedoms only for those people who have been fully vaccinated.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, the rate of infection across Germany on Tuesday averaged 14.5 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. While this is still relatively low, that rate was just 4.9 on July 6. Nearly 50% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Can testing stop a fourth wave?
Virologist Martin Stürmer welcomed the possibility of expanding of compulsory testing, saying: "We're actually already seeing that return travelers are contributing in a heightened way to bringing infections into Germany."
He told public broadcaster ZDF that vaccinated and recovered people would likely be exempt, but said such an approach would be "negligent" because even those who have been fully vaccinated can still contract the delta variant.
The virologist was skeptical about the chances of avoiding a fourth wave of infections in Germany. While the connection between infections and hospitalizations would become weaker over time, he said, there are still unknowns regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19.
"We have a virus where we still don't know exactly what consequential damage will ultimately be done," Stürmer said.
ab/nm (Reuters, AFP)