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Germany: Compulsory virus testing off to smooth start

August 8, 2020

Operators of airport testing centers across Germany reported minimal wait times and ample supplies. Meanwhile, EU members Romania and Bulgaria were added to Germany's list of high-risk countries.

Deutschland Coronavirus - Covid-19 Test in Berlin
Image: Reuters/F. Bensch

Germany's coronavirus testing requirement for travelers flying in from high-risk countries came into force with few complications on Saturday.

Coronavirus testing booth operators at Germany's largest airport, Frankfurt Airport, said they did not see any major problems or notice a large increase in the number of people waiting to be tested.

"This is slightly more than in the past few days," Benedikt Hart, the head of the German Red Cross-operated testing center at the airport told the DPA news agency. "The people have understanding. There are no disgruntled passengers."

Read moreGermany requires coronavirus tests for arrivals — what you need to know

A Hamburg Airport spokesperson echoed that statement, saying that there were no complications related to the testing, and that passengers arriving from high-risk countries didn't face more than a 30-minute wait to be tested. In Berlin, tests carried out at both Tegel and Schönefeld airports, as well as the central bus station were carried out with relative simplicity and only sporadic queues.

The tests are typically to be taken directly upon arrival at airports, but are also available free of charge at separate testing centers and medical practices up to three days after arrival. 

Holidaying safely in a pandemic

DW correspondent Konrad Busen, who was at Frankfurt Airport, said the introduction of testing was expected to increase the number of cases identified.

"Up until now here in Frankfurt the number of positive tests has been relatively small, around about 1% of the about 2,000 people tested here per day have been positive," he said. "This number is expected to rise now as compulsory testing is introduced for people traveling from high-risk countries."

Praise and condemnation

The largest German doctor's union, the Marburger Bund, welcomed the move, citing a higher rate of positive tests in people coming from high-risk countries. "The obligatory testing could make this even more obvious, because people with a tendency toward risky behavior are more likely to bypass voluntary testing stations," Marburger Bund Chairwoman Susanne Johne said.

Read moreCoronavirus trend: The pandemic is far from over 

However, other practitioners have criticized the broad requirement. The risk areas are "much too general" and many general practitioners do not have the capacity to handle a "rush of people" asking to be tested, Ulrich Weigeldt, the chairman of the German Association of General Practitioners, told Die Welt newspaper.

He also said it was "absurd" that returning travelers should have to give a doctor proof that they were abroad, adding that general practitioners are "not a branch of the Federal Ministry of Health."

Infografik Deutschland Trend Corona Tests für Reiserückkehrer EN

As an alternative to being tested in Germany, people arriving from abroad can be tested in the country where they were vacationing within 48 hours of their flight. Health authorities are, however, encouraging travelers to be tested a second time five to seven days after their journey.

Around 130 countries, including the United States, Egypt and Russia are listed as high-risk by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's health research agency. High-risk EU countries include Luxembourg, the Belgian province of Antwerp, several regions of Spain and parts of Romania and Bulgaria. A place is considered to be high risk once the number of new infections in the past week rises above 50 cases per 100,000 people.

Read moreIs Germany ready for the second coronavirus wave?

The number of infections in Germany has been steadily on the rise over the past weeks, with experts warning of a second wave. The daily number of new infections rose by over 1,000 for the third day in a row on Saturday, reflecting a trend not seen since May. The country has recorded nearly 217,000 cases and a death toll of 9,201.

lc/rc (dpa, Reuters)