Germany has rolled out compulsory coronavirus testing for all arrivals from high-risk areas as infection rates continued to climb across the country.
There have been more than 1,000 new infections reported for the past three days, the first time daily new infection numbers have reached four figures since May.
Mandatory testing booths were set up at airports across the country. While testing had been available at some larger airports across Germany previously, these were voluntary and did not depend on the country of departure.
On Saturday, Germany added Bulgaria and Romania to the list of high risk countries for which testing is now mandatory. Most EU countries have been excluded from the list, as well as former EU member Britain. However, parts of Spain and Belgium have been recently added as ‘high risk’ areas.
The German government, which has been lauded for its implementation of a widespread testing regime, covers the costs of the tests – regardless of the reason for travel.
While other nations have put in place airport testing regimes which operate either at random or are voluntary, it is the first scheme where all arrivals from certain ‘high risk’ countries or regions must be tested.
Those who refuse to do so face a fine of up to 25,000 euro (£22,000), depending on the rules in the federal state in which they arrive.
The requirement applies to all people arriving from countries deemed high risk, regardless of whether they hold German citizenship or live in Germany.
Travellers are only able to avoid a test if they can produce a negative test certificate which is less than two days old.
In announcing the testing requirement on Thursday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said compulsory testing was necessary due to rising infection rates and risks of importing cases of the virus from abroad.
“Anyone who arrives from a high-risk area and travels into Germany must provide evidence of a negative test or complete a test on arrival. The pandemic is not over. We must stay alert," he said.
German media reports that the process has run smoothly across Germany, with only a slight increase in the number of tests completed.
Benedikt Hart, the chief of the German Red Cross which operates a testing centre at Frankfurt airport, told the German Press Agency that testers have not encountered refusals or problems from arrivals.
"There are slightly more [tests] than in the past few days," he said. "The people have understanding. There are no disgruntled passengers."
While approximately two per cent of tests at Germany’s airports in recent months have returned positive results, German media agency Deutsche Welle reports that only one per cent of arrivals at Frankfurt Airport – where the country’s largest testing centre is based – have tested positive for the virus.
Concern about rising infection rates has spilled over into education policy, with schools in several German states going back on Monday.
While health authorities in Berlin called for all students to be tested, Students in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania threatened to strike over a perceived lack of security measures in schools.
The students representative body voted by narrow majority to strike on Friday due to a lack of distance and hygiene measures in schools, however it was postponed on Saturday evening after a promise from the education department that an advisory board on hygiene in schools would be convened.