What does the mandatory test mean for returnees from risk countries?
In the fight against the corona virus, since Saturday, August 8th, a test requirement for all holidaymakers who come back from countries with many infected people.
For those returning from these risk countries there is according to the Federal Ministry of Health two possibilities: Either they still can in vacation country Test a maximum of 48 hours before departure and submit a negative proof in German or English. You have to pay for tests abroad yourself. Or they can after returning test in Germany. This is stipulated in an ordinance by Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). The tests should be carried out directly at airports or later in other test centers and practices and are free of charge for up to three days after the journey home.
In principle, children also have to be tested. The compulsory test does not apply if you have only traveled through a risk area without stopping. Since August 1st, everyone who is coming from abroad has been able to get a free test.
How is the mandatory test checked?
For a few weeks now, it has generally been the case that all returnees from risk areas must report to the health department. The obligation to notify only does not apply if the travelers have filled out “disembarkation cards” in planes, ships, trains or buses coming directly from a risk area. These are collected and passed on to the health authorities at the place of residence.
At the request of the office, a negative test result – generated at the airport or at the family doctor, for example – must be presented. If not yet available, the test must be taken within 14 days of entry – until a (negative) test result is received, the returnees must remain in quarantine. Quarantine should also be adhered to if there is no negative result after a test, for example at the airport, when you continue your journey. Close contact with third parties should be avoided on the way home.
The laboratories report a positive result directly to the health department, and the travelers have to be quarantined for up to 14 days. Compliance with these is checked by the local authorities on a random basis. If travelers from risk areas do not have a test done on request, they face fines of up to 25,000 euros – but the amount should be determined proportionately.
Interior Secretary Günter Krings (CDU) told the “Rheinische Post”, “When traveling to risk areas, we should think about whether we should introduce a prior notification obligation.” Anyone wishing to travel to a risk area should report this to the health department beforehand so that it is easier to check afterwards “whether the mandatory corona test was carried out upon entry and whether the quarantine was complied with”.
Which countries are considered risk areas?
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has the Risk areas on a list compiled. It includes around 130 states from Egypt to Russia to the USA. From the EU, these are currently Luxembourg, the Belgian province of Antwerp and the Spanish regions of Aragón, Catalonia and Navarra. In addition, a total of ten regions in Bulgaria and Romania are now considered risk areas. This also includes the Bulgarian tourist stronghold of Varna with the holiday resort Golden Sands, popular with German party tourists, which is often compared to the Ballermann on Mallorca.
The central criterion is in which states or regions there have been more than 50 newly infected people per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days. This classification is not synonymous with travel warnings issued by the Federal Foreign Office.
Where can I get tested?
If you do not cross the border with a negative test result from the country you are traveling to, you should be tested immediately at airports, train stations and ports – or later in other test centers and practices in your location. It should also be possible to inquire about test sites by calling the medical service telephone number 116 117. If you want to be tested by your family doctor, you should call them beforehand.
How expensive are the tests and who pays?
All tests when returning to Germany cost nothing for travelers up to 72 hours after entry – regardless of which country they come from. To make it credible that you have been abroad, you can present a boarding pass, a ticket, a hotel bill or other evidence.
The tests are initially financed by the statutory health insurances, also for private patients. The federal government then pays the costs through a higher billions in subsidies to the coffers.
For the time being, 50.50 euros per test are set for laboratory services, plus 15 euros for the doctor. Up to 1.2 million tests per week are now possible, but only just under half of them have been used for a long time, according to the ministry. Costs for tests that travelers have to pay for themselves vary in holiday countries. Example Turkey: 15 to 30 euros.
Is there chaos at the airports?
No, at least the start of the compulsory test at the weekend went largely smoothly. According to operator information, a total of around 2,600 returnees were registered in both test centers at Germany‘s largest airport in Frankfurt am Main. In one to one and a half percent of the cases, the test results were positive. On Sunday, the tests ran smoothly and at a comparable level.
According to a spokesman, there were hardly any queues at the test sites at Düsseldorf Airport on the last holiday weekend for North Rhine-Westphalia; the situation was similar in Stuttgart and at the two Berlin airports Tegel and Schönefeld. According to the responsible authorities, nobody in Hamburg had to wait long either. However, not all of them would have used the test at the airport.
How do doctors see compulsory testing?
The medical association Marburger Bund welcomed the new obligation. The first results showed that the rate of positive tests among returnees from risk areas is comparatively high, said chairwoman Susanne Johna of the German press agency.
“The obligation to test could bring this to light even more clearly – because it stands to reason that people with a tendency to risk behavior on vacation are also more likely to pass voluntary test stations,” said Johna. For returnees from risk areas, it could make sense to add a short quarantine of a few days and then a second test even if the first negative test is negative. Tests are snapshots and do not cover the previous three to five days.
The chairman of the German Association of General Practitioners, Ulrich Weigeldt, criticized, however, that the risk areas had been divided into “far too generalized” areas. In addition, many family doctors are not equipped for a “rush of test-willing”, he told the “world”.
Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) initially considers it right that the tests are free for returnees. “For a permanent solution, however, alternatives must be considered, for example whether the costs for the tests will be allocated to the corresponding flight tickets,” the CDU politician told SPIEGEL.