Germany struggles to process ramped-up coronavirus testing


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Germany says it is struggling to process all coronavirus swabs after testing was ramped up.

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The country’s disease control agency reported a renewed jump in confirmed cases of the virus on Friday.

The daily rise in infections on Thursday reached levels not seen since late April when over 1,700 new cases were reported nationwide by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The rising trend ebbed slightly the following day, when a rise of 1,427 was reported, bringing Germany’s cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 230,048.

The numbers have been increasing since late July as people socialise more in groups, while a significant chunk of the novel coronavirus cases have also been among people who have spent time abroad.

In order to clamp down on imported cases during the summer holiday season, Germany has rolled out testing facilities at airports, train stations and on autobahns.

The tests are compulsory for those returning from areas considered high-risk.

But in its newly released epidemiological bulletin, the RKI noted that the increased testing had led to a backlog of 17,142 specimens being processed between Aug. 10 to Aug. 16.

Meanwhile, 41 laboratories have reported delivery problems for reagents, according to the report which was released on Thursday.

There are concerns that stretched capacities could lead to infected people not being informed of their results in time.

This was seen recently in the southern state of Bavaria, where the state government was engulfed by a scandal over delays in informing over 900 people that they had tested positive.

According to the RKI, the number of tests being carried out in Germany rocketed from around 578,000 between July 27, to Aug. 2, to over 875,000 two weeks later, from Aug. 10 to Aug 16.

Germany has gradually lifted the sweeping coronavirus restrictions it introduced in response to the pandemic in mid-March, replacing them with mask rules and an ambitious tracking strategy to respond to localised outbreaks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to hold her next meeting with the leaders of the country’s 16 states on Aug. 27, as part of efforts to coordinate a nationwide response to the virus.

The last such meeting was held in June.

On announcing the upcoming video conference, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert reiterated the government’s concern in the face of the rising infections.

He hit out at people attending large family gatherings, saying that private celebrations with a hundred or more people where no one was sticking to the hygiene and social-distancing rules were irresponsible.

Seibert also urged travellers returning from high-risk areas, which include certain popular holiday destinations in Spain and Croatia, to stick to the testing and quarantine rules.

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