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Germany to End Mandatory COVID-19 Tests for Travelers


Passengers wear mandatory face masks at the main train station in Essen, Germany, Aug. 24, 2020.

The German health ministry announced Wednesday the country will end its mandatory virus testing for travelers returning from foreign risk areas and focus its testing strategy on people with symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19 instead.

At a news conference Wednesday in Berlin, Health Minister Jens Spahn said during recent weeks — the peak vacation season, when many citizens traveled abroad — Germany nearly doubled its tests to 900,000 per week at airports, train stations and road stops.

Jens Spahn, federal minister of health, gives a press conference at the Federal Ministry of Health in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 26, 2020.
Jens Spahn, federal minister of health, gives a press conference at the Federal Ministry of Health in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 26, 2020.

The new measures mean that instead of mandatory tests, travelers returning to Germany will need to go into quarantine.

Spahn told reporters as the vacation period ends and people are traveling less, the risk would go down again. He said the government will resume testing people with symptoms and with contact to COVID-19 patients after the end of the travel season in September.

The free tests were introduced in the first week of August after new coronavirus cases passed the 1,000-a-day threshold for the first time since May, fueling fears of a return to lockdowns.

Some health professionals felt the tests were ineffective as some travelers, who had tested negative at airports, produced positive results several days later. There have also been staff and equipment shortages.

More decisions regarding testing strategy are expected after Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the country's state governors Thursday.

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