Anyone who wants to travel from China to Germany will have to be tested for Corona before the flight. Because of the Chinese corona wave with very high infection rates, Germany - like other countries - wants to introduce mandatory testing. This was announced by Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach on Thursday. "Entry is only permitted with a negative test," said the SPD politician. At least one rapid antigen test should be carried out.
Germany is thus implementing a recommendation from Brussels. Health experts from the 27 EU countries were not able to agree on a mandatory test on Wednesday evening, but strongly recommended it. The experts also recommend wearing a medical or FFP2 mask on board aircraft from China.
The background is a huge wave of infections in the People's Republic. After almost three years of lockdowns, mass testing and forced quarantine, the most populous country abruptly ended its zero-Covid policy in early December. Since then, several hundred million people have been infected with the virus. The hospitals are overcrowded, fever and cold medicines are often sold out. According to experts, the huge outbreak is expected to last until March or April.
Common European response
In addition to Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Austria and Greece announced mandatory testing on Thursday. Other countries such as Italy, France or Spain had already tightened entry rules on their own in the past few days. Lauterbach emphasized: "Europe has found a common response to the pandemic situation in China. That is exactly what we as the federal government have done." In addition to mandatory testing, the Minister of Health announced spot checks upon entry to identify virus variants. In addition, there will be additional waste water controls for trips to China.
It was initially unclear when the new rules should apply in Germany. "One cannot say when the first flight will be affected. We are now implementing this as quickly as possible," said Lauterbach. In any case, it will be in time to reach travelers after the Chinese New Year on January 22.
The aviation industry wants to wait for more precise instructions. The industry association BDL does not actually consider the obligation to test before departure from China to be necessary. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the EU agency ECDC have found that such travel restrictions do not effectively prevent the spread of the corona virus, it said.
The airport association ADV welcomed the fact that passengers should be tested before departure in China and not only upon arrival at a European airport. Planned spot checks upon entry would have to be organized by government agencies.
No special challenge for the immune system?
It is disputed whether the high number of cases in China can influence the epidemiological situation in the EU at all. The EU health authority ECDC had recently given the all-clear: The variants circulating in China also exist here, so they do not pose a particular challenge for the immune system of the citizens. In addition, EU citizens have comparatively good immunity from infections and vaccinations on average. The fact that the EU states nevertheless agreed on the tests is also due to the fact that the data from China is considered insufficient.
The German Hospital Society emphasized that mandatory testing only makes sense if it applies across Europe. The number of infections from China is frightening and harbors the risk of mutations, said CEO Gerald Gass of the "Rheinische Post". "In the past three years, however, we have also seen that mandatory testing can usually only delay the global spread of mutations." As a "means of monitoring" the obligation to test is nevertheless suitable.
Wastewater analyzes should also be used for this purpose. The corresponding infrastructure is available at Frankfurt Airport, said a spokesman for the operator Fraport. Almost a dozen planes from China land in Frankfurt every week. Special vehicles supply the aircraft with water and dispose of the waste water. Virologists currently do not think it is particularly likely that a variant will develop in China that escapes an immune system that has adapted to the virus.