Germany introduces free Covid-19 tests for travellers returning from abroad. | Reuters


Germany is offering free coronavirus tests to travellers returning from abroad from August 1 and tests will be mandatory for anyone arriving from a high risk country from Monday.

Health Minister Jens Spahn has defended the free tests despite harsh criticism from those who believe that travellers should pay for them and insists that offering free Covid-19 tests makes it easier to persuade travellers to agree to be tested.

"The virus does not take vacations," Minister Spahn said in relation to the danger of "imported" infections.

Because of the estimated incubation period for coronavirus, he also recommends having a second test a few days after the first, which will also be free of charge.

Medical Associations and the Opposition Liberal Party, or FDP, have heavily criticised Minister Spahn's plan saying the free tests will cause an overload of work and cost a fortune.

The equipment necessary to carry out the coronavirus tests has already been established at most of Germany's International airports and will be operational at Berlin and Schönefeld from next week.

Minister Spahn wants travellers from high risk regions to be tested at the airport, instead of undergoing mandatory quarantine which he says is difficult to monitor.

Those arriving from areas not included in the high risk list will have 72 hours to undergo a test free of charge at a Medical Centre.

High risk areas include the Spanish regions of Catalonia, Navarra and Aragon, Luxembourg, Turkey, the United States, practically all of Latin America, and large parts of Africa and Asia.

The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a warning against travel to Catalonia, Navarre and Aragon on Friday.

In the last week there has been a clear increase in new coronavirus infections, both "imported" and domestic, most of which were reportedly the result of parties, family gatherings or religious ceremonies.

In the last 24 hourse 955 new Covid-19 infections were confirmed in Germany, compared to 800-850 one week ago and 300-350 in mid-June.

209,653 people in Germany have contracted coronavirus since the pandemic began, 192,700 have completely recovered and 9,148 died, according to the latest data from RKI.