Germany to ease testing for those with COVID-19 booster

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A medical worker takes a swab sample from Luisa during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test, on the premises of the brewing company BrewDog beside their DogTap restaurant in Berlin, Germany May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

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BERLIN, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Germany will exempt people who have had a booster vaccination from having to take a coronavirus test before entering some leisure facilities, federal and regional health ministers agreed on Tuesday.

The proposal, agreed by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and ministers from Germany's 16 federal states, is aimed at encouraging people to get a booster shot and relieving testing capacity.

However, a negative test result would still be required to enter hospitals and care homes to help protect more vulnerable people, according to the draft, reviewed by Reuters.

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Some 69.9% of the population has had two vaccinations and 23.8% have received a booster.

Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetschek told reporters that Germany was suffering from a vaccination shortage, and urged authorities to use "unconventional methods" - including direct contact with manufacturers - to boost supplies. Germany gets most of its vaccines through a joint EU procurement scheme.

Currently, people who have had two shots or have recovered must show a negative COVID-19 test to enter places with a high risk of spreading infection, such as night clubs or discos.

"Scientific evidence suggests that a booster reduces both the risk of infection and the risk of further transmission. In addition, the lifting of the obligation to take a test could relieve the heavily used test capacity," an earlier draft said.

Like other European countries, Germany is struggling to curb a fourth wave of the coronavirus. Some 473 people were reported on Tuesday to have died with COVID-19.

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases also reported 30,823 new cases but the seven-day incidence fell to 375 per 100,000 people from 389.2 on Monday.

The document also proposed that travellers who had been in a "virus variant area" 10 days before their arrival in Germany should take a PCR test prior to leaving and carry out a further PCR test upon arrival in Germany at the airport.

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Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Madeline Chambers and Thomas Escritt Editing by Robert Birsel and Barbara Lewis

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