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Germany suspends mandatory coronavirus tests


Passengers comply with the order to wear a mask as they walk through the main train station in Essen, Germany, Monday, Aug.24, 2020.


Germany will end the mandatory tests to diagnose coronavirus that were applied to those returning from areas of high risk of contagion abroad, Health Minister Jens Spahn reported on Wednesday, adding that the authorities will focus again on their strategy of examine people with symptoms or who may have been exposed to patients with COVID-19.

The minister said that during the summer holidays, the number of virus tests carried out in the country almost doubled, to 900,000 per week, in part to identify people who contracted the virus during trips abroad.

People returning to Germany from contagion risk areas were offered free screening tests at airports, train stations and road stops, allowing them to shorten the required two-week quarantine if the result was negative.

From now on, travelers returning from high-risk areas – which include most countries outside the European Union and some regions within the bloc – will be required to undergo mandatory quarantines for at least five days before taking a test, possibly it is no longer free, unless ordered by a physician.

“With the end of the holiday period … this risk is decreasing again,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin. “We have to focus more on patients with symptoms and those who had contact with COVID patients.”

Spahn did not say when exactly the testing strategy would change, but that decision is likely to be made Thursday during a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors.

The change in the country’s testing strategy is also due to German clinical laboratories reaching the limits of their capacity, Spahn said.

Operators at Frankfurt airport, Germany’s largest, criticized the decision to focus on quarantining people, rather than testing travelers.