Corona in the Koffer (baggage).
Photo: Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa

BerlinFederal and state health officials Monday evening agreed to abolish mandatory corona testing for travellers returning to Berlin after labs threatened to halt testing Wednesday because the programme had pushed them to capacity. 

Arrivals from high-risk regions will soon be once again asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, or just five days if they can produce a negative test result.

The decision follows a warning by Dilek Kalayci (SPD), Berlin's top health official, Monday that labs were at 93 per cent testing capacity because of the mandatory tests. The self-quarantine marks a return to the German government's original plan for combatting corona in people returning or visiting from abroad and comes even though 42 per cent of new corona cases came from people coming to Berlin from elsewhere, according to officials. 

The new regulations will come into effect either on 15 September or 1 October, according to Berlin health officials. The government will stop covering the cost of tests for travellers on that date after politicians had complained about the rising costs. 

The leaders of Germany's 16 states are also pushing for a conference call with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Berlin Mayor Michael Müller (SPD), who also doubles as the city-state's representative in the second chamber of German parliament, the Bundesrat, says states and the federal government need to harmonise their approaches to major events, people arriving from high-risk regions and fines for ignoring corona restrictions.  

Masks at your desk

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) on Monday suggested mandatory masks in the workplace as coronavirus cases climb to levels not seen in months. 

“That could be one step, which could be made mandatory nationally, if it could prevent the closure of entire industries,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told Die Welt.  

Other politicians and experts said the step may be premature – keeping employees far apart or constructing plexiglas cubicles would be better steps before forcing people to strap a mask to their face for eight hours a day, Markus Hofmann, head of social policies for union association DGB, told Berliner Zeitung. 

The suggestion is just an “attempt to circumvent expensive construction measures – it's simpler and cheaper to provide masks to all employees.”