Germany begins mass coronavirus testing at airports

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin’s Tegel airport began large scale coronavirus testing on Wednesday, as airports across Germany prepared for the advent of free, compulsory testing for many passengers from next week.

Two rooms were set aside for tests, but an airport spokeswoman said a larger space was being prepared, indicating that authorities are preparing for testing to remain a fixture for a long time to come.

“These rooms are of course a bit small, as you can see,” said spokeswoman Sabine Deckwerth. “That is why the large Terminal D in Tegel is being prepared to host a bigger one.”

An increase in the number of infections across Europe has dashed the hopes of airlines and tourist destinations such as Spain for a relatively quick return to mass tourism after months of lockdown.

Airports such as Frankfurt, Germany’s busiest, have been offering tests over the previous weeks, but now preparations are gearing up across the country for the testing of passengers arriving from countries deemed high risk that is due to begin next week.

On Tuesday, Germany’s top public health official scolded the public for their lack of discipline in adhering to social distancing practices and wearing masks that can slow the spread of the highly contagious disease in the absence of a vaccine.

The number of daily new cases almost doubled on Tuesday to 633, with 684 added on Wednesday, giving a total of around 207,000 with just over 9,100 deaths.

Earlier on Wednesday, research minister Anja Karliczek warned the public not to expect a vaccine that could be deployed on a broad scale before the middle of next year.

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alison Williams