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German state beset by fresh COVID-19 test backlog

September 4, 2020

Bavaria's health minister has been criticized for the second testing blunder in less than a month, amid a high volume of requests. The southern German state is alone in offering free coronavirus tests for everyone.

A coronavirus testing station on the A93 in Bavaria
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

Some 10,000 travelers returning to the southern German state of Bavaria who had taken a coronavirus test did not get their results within the required 48 hours, the state's Health Ministry admitted on Friday. 

Some are said to have waited up to a week.

This is the second time the state has run into problems with its testing operation. In mid-August, tens of thousands of people faced long waits for their results, including more than 900 people who had tested positive.

Bavaria is the only federal state that offers free coronavirus tests for everyone. The policy, which has been questioned by many, including Germany's health minister Jens Spahn, was introduced by Bavarian state premier Markus Söder (CSU) at the end of June.

This month's test debacle was the result of a technical glitch at Ecolog, the private service provider conducting the COVID-19 tests, Bavaria's Health Ministry said.

Read more: Most in Germany back Berlin's coronavirus response

Berlin protests: 18,000 march against COVID-19 rules

A wave of criticism 

The Health Ministry said the issue had been resolved and everyone would receive their tests on Friday. But Söder and his government still faced criticism over the mass-testing strategy and its hiccups. 

The Association of Accredited Medical Laboratories in Germany (ALM) had already warned on Thursday that laboratories in Bavaria were not able to return results on time due to "the high volume of tests."

According to public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk, the local Green Party renewed its call for a targeted testing strategy that would prioritize testing to travelers, teachers, educators, medical staff and people with symptoms. 

"The laboratories are already at their limits. Doctors have to cancel appointments. Health authorities cannot be reached. The Bavarian testing strategy must take into account existing resources," said Dominik Spitzer, health expert of the German liberal party FDP.

Bavaria's center-left SPD leader, Uli Grötsch, put the blame squarely on Health Minister Melanie Huml. Grötsch said on Twitter that it was "highly irresponsible" for her to stay in her job, after her ministry was unable to keep control over the testing situation.

jcg/mm (dpa, AFP)