Berlin, 6 August 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Germany on Thursday said it would enforce compulsory tests for travellers from high-risk areas as the country recorded its highest number of new daily coronavirus infections in three months.
All incoming passengers returning from what the government designates as high-risk areas will be required to take an obligatory test on arrival in Germany from Saturday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.
Previously, travellers from high-risk areas could be required by individual German states to go into 14-day self-isolation on arrival, but testing remained voluntary.
Since last Saturday, all international passengers arriving in Germany have been offered a voluntary test free of charge.
The state requiring an obligatory test is controversial in Germany, as critics have said it would contravene individual freedoms.
Spahn said the new rule came in a bid to “play it safe,” adding that he was “very aware that this is an interference with the freedom of the individual.”
The German government has been constantly updating its list of high-risk areas to cover regions and whole countries both within and outside of the European Union.
Currently, within the EU the list includes Luxembourg, the Belgian province of Antwerp and the three Spanish regions of Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre.
The key criteria for a region to be included on the list is whether it has confirmed more than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days.
The announcement came as the government’s infectious diseases institute, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), on Thursday recorded 1,045 new infections within the past 24 hours, the first time since May 7 the number has topped 1,000.
Germany‘s new daily caseload then eased significantly, but has begun to climb again since late July.
The peak of the country’s outbreak to date was in early April, when Germany was recording more than 6,000 additional cases a day.
The RKI has so far confirmed at least 213,067 cases in Germany and 9,175 related deaths.
The current outbreak is not due to localized outbreaks as was the case following a cluster of cases in a slaughterhouse in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia in mid-June.
Cases are rather rising incrementally everywhere, with experts fearing this makes it more difficult to contain with regional restrictions.
Schools in a number of Germany‘s 16 federal states are due to reopen in the coming week.
The latest reproduction rate, or R-value, which measures the disease’s ability to spread, was 0.9, down from 1.02, meaning that an infected person infects roughly one other person.
The rate has a time lag of about 10 days. The RKI has emphasized that for the outbreak to subside, the rate must remain below 1.
The RKI’s seven-day R-value, which is less subject to fluctuations, was 0.97, down from 0.99 the previous day.