As Germans prepare for the summer holidays, the government says its "top priority" is to make sure the travel season doesn't lead to a surge in new coronavirus infections. It's hoping a new warning app will help.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, warned Sunday that traveling during the upcoming holiday season could increase the coronavirus risk.
"If holidaymakers return from a hotspot to their homes all over Germany, and we're not able to identify the chains of infection, we would quickly end up in a situation where we would have to implement nationwide measures," Braun told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung newspaper.
He said it was the government's "top priority" to make sure it doesn't come to that again.
Berlin is hoping a new coronavirus warning app, to be unveiled in a matter of days, will help keep the situation under control. Those who sign up to the voluntary app will be automatically notified if another user in their vicinity has tested positive for COVID-19.
Tourist season kicks off
The app's release comes in the same week that Germany and other EU states plan to start opening their borders in time for Europe's peak summer season.
Germany already began opening its borders to neighboring Austria, Switzerland, and France on May 16 under tightly controlled conditions. As of June 15, the country is set to fully relax borders and restrictions on inter-EU travel.
The restart of tourism has sparked concerns among some German doctors about a potential second wave. Hajo Zeep, a senior medical expert from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in the city of Bremen, last month warned that there is still not enough immunity in the population to prevent another spike in infections.
"Considering that a very small portion of the population is likely to be immune so far, it is clear that the virus could spread quickly if the conditions are right," Zeep told the German press agency.
Inferior health systems
University of Marburg doctor and health researcher Max Geraedts noted that medical care abroad may not be as good as it is in Germany, especially if a traveler falls seriously ill with COVID-19.
"In the places where there is poorer health care, it is more dangerous — particularly for people who are already at risk," he told dpa.
He said holidaymakers also risked endangering the local population: "If foreigners in need of treatment have to be factored in [by health systems abroad], that is, of course bad," he said.
"Ethically it is at least questionable if you have few resources for those already there and then have to account for travelers too."
nm/mm (AFP, dpa)