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Germany announces compulsory tests — What you need to know

August 6, 2020

Germany has announced that all arrivals arriving from risk areas will have to undergo a coronavirus test upon entering the country, beginning on Saturday. DW explains what this means for travelers to Germany.

Coronavirus testing at Schönefeld airport, Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen

German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced Thursday wide-reaching new testing measures for arrivals in Germany. From Saturday, all of those arriving from designated risk areas will have to be tested for coronavirus unless they can produce a negative test certificate no more than two days old.

Who needs to be tested?

The rules apply to anyone of any nationality arriving in Germany from a so-called risk area. All will have to undergo a test for coronavirus or show a recent negative test result. These tests can be carried out in all major airports in Germany.

For travelers arriving over land, Spahn said they are required to go to testing centers if there are no testing facilities at their point of arrival.

Tests have been encouraged for all travelers arriving in Germany from anywhere, not just risk areas, since July.

Read more: Coronavirus: Germany's growing anti-lockdown movement

Post-lockdown tourism in Berlin

Who pays for the tests?

The cost of the tests will be carried by the German government, even if people traveled to risk areas for non-essential reasons.

Spahn also said that he hoped people arriving from all areas, not just risk areas, will soon be able to test for free. Travelers from non-risk areas are currently not required to test or quarantine unless they have symptoms.

Where are the risk areas?

Germany’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has a list of risk areas that they update on a daily basis. Broadly, the list features countries and territories with significantly higher levels of coronavirus infection than Germany. It extends to a large number of countries outside of the European Union, but EU members or not necessarily exempt.

At the time of writing, the list of risk areas included the US, several northern regions of Spain, North Macedonia, Israel, Iran, Turkey, India and North Korea. The Belgian province of Antwerp was added on Wednesday after a spike in cases.

You can find a full list on RKI's website.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn
Jens Spahn: 'The pandemic os not over'Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AFP/T. Schwarz

Do travelers still need to quarantine?

Spahn stressed that all of those returning from risk areas are still required to enter the two week quarantine even once they have been tested, until they have a negative result.

Around 2% of tests carried out in airports currently yield a positive result, compared to 0.8% of tests in general in Germany, suggesting that infection rates in general are higher for those arriving from outside Germany’s borders.

Spahn made the announcement as daily cases in Germany passed 1,000 for the first time in three months.

"The pandemic is not over," he stressed. "We must stay alert."

Holidaying safely in a pandemic

ed/aw (epd, Reuters)

A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that South Korea is a coronavirus risk area. This should have read North Korea. This has now been corrected. The department apologizes for the error.