Row over travel curbs grows as Germany announces record caseload

By Rachel Bossmeyer and Simone Humml, dpa

A political row over travel restrictions within Germany was heating up on Thursday, just hours after the country’s body for disease control announced a new record in daily coronavirus infections.

A rule stipulating that people who live in high-risk areas cannot stay overnight in other parts of the country was rejected by two of Germany’s 16 states on Thursday, with the government of Saxony lifting it and a court in Baden Wuerttemberg deciding it would not be imposed.

Critics say that travellers cannot reasonably be expected to procure a negative coronavirus test less than 48 hours before the time of their departure, and that the extent of the restrictions on citizens’ freedom of movement is not tenable.

Another point of criticism is that there is insufficient evidence to show that hotels and hostels are in fact major drivers of the rising infection rate.

The rule applies to residents of regions where the rate of new infections has risen to 50 per 100,000 residents over the course of a week.

The news from the dissenting states comes just hours after Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control announced a record 6,638 new coronavirus infections within one day.

The figures released Thursday marked a jump of some 1,500 on the previous day.

The previous infection peak of around 6,300 daily cases was in late March, but it is likely there were significantly more cases at the time as testing capacity has been greatly expanded since then.

The number of coronavirus tests has fluctuated between around 1.1 million and 1.2 million per week since mid-August. According to the RKI, the rate of positive tests rose significantly on Wednesday evening: from 0.74 per cent at the end of August to 2.48 per cent in the week of October 5 to 11.

There is a backlog in several laboratories, according to the institute.

“In the last few weeks, the RKI has been receiving more and more reports from laboratories indicating that they are very much at the limits of their capacity utilization,” the institute wrote in its management report on Wednesday.

According to newly tightened rules, people returning from high-risk regions should go into self-isolation.

The rules apply to anyone who has been in a region designated as high-risk by the RKI in the 10 days before entering Germany. They should then go into isolation for 10 days.

Alternatively, they can be tested for the virus, at the earliest five days after entering Germany, with a negative result allowing them to leave quarantine.

According to the RKI, at least 341,223 people in Germany have been infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis and around 284,600 people have recovered.

The number of deaths in connection with a coronavirus infection was 9,710 on Thursday, 33 more than the previous day.

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