Germany brings back free COVID-19 tests as leaders warn of bleak situation

A visitors of the "Emilia senior residence" elderly care gets tested as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Darmstadt, Germany, May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

BERLIN, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Germany will reintroduce free COVID-19 tests from Saturday, the country's acting health minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, as part of measures to hit the brakes on a wave of COVID-19 cases.

The free tests, which were first offered from March as a way to offset a slow vaccine rollout, are being reinstated one month after they were allowed to run out, as the infection rate hit a record for a fifth day running on Friday.

Figures from Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) public health authority earlier showed that 263.7 people out of 100,000 were infected over the last week.

Spahn also said that he supported a stricter requirement that would mean people who are vaccinated and/or recovered must provide a negative coronavirus test to attend public events as well as others.

"We need to do everything necessary to break this momentum," said Spahn.

RKI head Lothar Wieler said that he was against large events in general, especially in light of the upcoming holidays, and he warned that the situation was serious.

"At least 90% of the people in Germany need to have immunity against the coronavirus. Otherwise we can't control the virus," said Wieler at the news conference in Berlin.

Over 67% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to health ministry figures.

Stricter measures to counter the wave of COVID-19 cases sweeping the country are supported by half of Germans, more than twice as many as two weeks ago, a poll showed on Friday.

Only 32% of respondents were satisfied with existing regulations and 49% wanted them toughened, the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen survey of 1,257 Germans conducted from Nov. 9 to 11 for broadcaster ZDF showed.

Two weeks ago, only 20% wanted measures tightened.

Reporting by Miranda Murray, Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Zuzanna Szymanska and Hugh Lawson

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