Germany considers mandatory coronavirus tests for returning holidaymakers

Travellers line up at the new Corona Test Centre at Duesseldorf Airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, on July 27, 2020.
Travellers line up at the new Corona Test Centre at Duesseldorf Airport in Duesseldorf, Germany, on July 27, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Germany came under pressure on Monday (July 27) to introduce mandatory coronavirus testing for holidaymakers returning from high-risk countries to prevent driving up infections in Europe's largest economy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff said he was concerned about the rising number of cases, but asked for patience while officials clarified whether forcing someone was compatible with respecting people's basic rights.

"I think that we'll find a solution relatively quickly," Mr Helge Braun told reporters, adding that it was necessary to act now to help Germany get through the coronavirus crisis in good shape in autumn and winter.

On Friday, Germany agreed that authorities would offer returning holidaymakers from countries designated as high risk - which currently include the United States, Brazil and Turkey - free tests on a voluntary basis.

But Bavarian State Premier Markus Soeder urged the government to make these tests mandatory, saying people returning from holiday could cause "lots of mini-Ischgls" - a reference to the Austrian ski resort that was the source of some of Germany's first coronavirus cases.

"We're preparing everything so that when the federal government gives us the legal basis to we can press the start button immediately," Mr Soeder told a news conference.

Germany has recorded more than 205,000 cases and more than 9,000 deaths, with the number of new daily cases jumping to a two-month high on Friday.

Mr Soeder said there should be a review of high-risk countries to consider whether to add certain regions within European countries.

Britain has slapped a 14-day quarantine on travellers from Spain after a surge of cases in Catalonia and Murcia. Norway has imposed a 10-day quarantine.

 
 
 

Bavaria will also set up voluntary test centres at three road border crossings as well as at Munich and Nuremberg train stations, Mr Soeder said.

Following a coronavirus outbreak at a vegetable farm in Mamming in Bavaria, where 147 workers tested positive, Mr Soeder said the state planned to increase the frequency of inspections and would quintuple fines for violations of coronavirus-related hygiene rules to €25,000 (S$40,500).

Bavaria has also ordered mandatory tests on all seasonal workers and expanded testing capacity for agricultural workers.