Frankfurt / Berlin (dpa) - Corona test instead of quarantine: Anyone traveling from so-called risk areas abroad should in future be tested for the corona virus immediately after returning. For this purpose, appropriate offices should be set up at German airports, according to a recommendation from the health ministers of the federal and state governments.

The tests should be mandatory. Consultations are planned again this Friday to discuss further details on how to deal with returning travelers and to decide on an overall package.

Which countries are at risk?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has classified more than 100 countries worldwide as areas in which there is an increased risk of infection with the corona virus. These currently include Egypt, Israel, Turkey, South Africa and the USA. So far, people returning from Germany have had to quarantine at home for 14 days in Germany - unless they have a negative corona test that is 48 hours old or less. They also have to report to their health department. However, it is questionable whether the returnees actually always go into quarantine. That is why politics wants to readjust here.

Who could do the tests at airports?

That's not decided yet. The Working Group of German Commercial Airports emphasizes that airport employees are not authorized to check passengers for their health status. "In any case, the following applies: If the health authorities order a quick test of whatever kind, this would have to be carried out by the authorities." It is currently unclear who will bear the costs for possible tests.

What tests is it about?

There is currently no information on this. Common tests for acute corona infection are the so-called PCR tests. As a rule, helpers take smears from the nose or throat with a stick, which are then examined for the genetic material of the pathogen Sars-CoV-2. However, these tests are only a snapshot. It may happen that the virus cannot be detected in a recently infected person at the time of the test. In addition, poor sampling can lead to a false negative result. SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach recently suggested that a further test be carried out a few days later at family doctors or health authorities.

How can you tell if you are transferring from a risk area?

The airlines have the data of the passengers, the travel routes and who they were sitting next to. In principle, it would be possible to understand whether a passenger who comes from Rome, for example, changed there on the way back from a risk area.

What about non-risk areas?

There is also a risk of infection there. For example, a family of four from Cottbus recently tested positive for the virus after returning from a holiday in Mallorca. Health expert Lauterbach recently called for free corona tests on vacation returnees. "It would be optimal to test everyone," he told Tagesspiegel with a view to return travelers at airports.

Is it just about air travelers?

This does not seem to have been finally clarified. A big question is how to deal with car, train and ship travelers, said a spokesman for the Brandenburg Ministry of Health. "Returning travelers from high-risk areas is not just about air travel."

Can travelers volunteer to be tested at airports today?

This is currently possible, for example, at Frankfurt and Munich airports. For almost a month now, passengers in Frankfurt have had the corona virus tested. The test center at Germany's largest airport is operated by the biotechnology company Centogene. The current capacity is 1000 to 1500 tests a day. Expansion is possible if larger capacities are needed. Around 30,000 people have been checked since the start. The test costs 59 euros and as a quick test 139 euros. At Munich Airport there has also been an option for travelers to have themselves tested voluntarily and at a fee since the end of June. Around 50 people a day currently use the 190 euro offer. However, the capacity of the test station, which is operated by a subsidiary of the airport, is largely exhausted. As of next week, returnees at Berlin's airports are expected to be tested for the corona virus, as governing mayor Michael Müller announced on Thursday.

What do airlines say about this?

In tests, they see an opportunity to get air traffic hit hard by the Corona crisis. This is especially true for the lucrative long-haul connections between the USA and Europe, which are severely restricted due to the entry restrictions in the pandemic. The CEOs of major airlines, including Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr, recently proposed a coordinated joint corona test program in an open letter to US Vice President Mike Pence and EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200724-99-910109 / 3

List of international risk areas