July 24, 2020 / 2:37 PM / 13 days ago

Germany to offer returning holidaymakers free coronavirus tests

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will offer returning holidaymakers free coronavirus tests as part of efforts to prevent a new wave of infections, authorities said on Friday, as the country recorded its highest number of daily cases for two months.

Arrivals from countries designated as high-risk will be eligible for immediate tests, while arrivals from other places will be able to get tested within three days.

“The current infection figures show once again that we are still in the middle of the corona pandemic. And increasing travel increases the risk of more infections being brought back into Germany,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a statement.

Germany has so far done a better job than many countries at containing the virus thanks to early and extensive testing. But videos of loutish behaviour by some Germans in Mallorca and Bulgaria has raised concerns that holidaymakers are at increased risk of infections that could then be imported back home.

The number of new confirmed cases increased sharply on Friday to 815, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed, the biggest tally since mid-May.

Germany has designated 130 countries as high-risk, including Turkey, Egypt and the United States.

Arrivals from anywhere on that list who cannot show a negative test result are already required to go into quarantine for 14 days.

Authorities said they will cover the cost of the tests in the first instance and are instructing airport operators to set up testing facilities. In future, costs should be passed on to holidaymakers via ticket prices.

People entering Germany from risk countries by road, train and bus will be subject to random spot tests near the border.

To gain a better idea of who is entering the country, Germany also plans to re-introduce disembarkation cards for all arrivals.

Reporting by Caroline Copley, editing by Thomas Escritt and John Stonestreet

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