Germany plans to allow sale of Covid-19 home test kits in pharmacies

Coronavirus rapid 'at-home' tests could soon be available to buy in Germany.

Germany plans to allow sale of Covid-19 home test kits in pharmacies
A woman holding a negative coronavirus rapid test. Photo: DPA

The Health Ministry is planning an amendment to the Medical Devices Dispensing Regulation, which would mean easy-to-use Covid-19 tests could be sold over the counter in pharmacies.

The current rapid antigen tests are only given to doctors, medical and nursing institutions, while educational institutions have also been allowed to use them since December.

But the changes to legislation would give the general public more access to rapid tests.

Some private companies already sell rapid tests online. The costs can vary, from around €80 to over €200.

The Ministry's draft document states that tests for self-use will play a big role in containing the pandemic in future.

“Such tests are an important contribution to optimising the testing strategy in Germany,” says the draft.

These tests are not yet available, according to the Ministry and the Federal Association of German Pharmacists (ABDA), but they are being developed.

Before “tests for self-administration” can go on sale, they have to go through a special approval procedure. According to the Ministry, it has to be proven that they work well and can be used by the general public.

The managing director of the Diagnostics Industry Association, Martin Walger, told DPA on Monday that it would take “a few weeks” until approval happens. 

READ ALSO: How and when can I receive a Covid-19 test in Germany?

According to Walger, there are different ways of carrying out rapid tests, including nose swabs and saliva tests.

Test prices would be calculated and decided individually by each manufacturer and also by pharmacies. The tests will also probably differ in their quality and the way the work so that would be reflected in the price.

In addition to the self-tests, the planned amendment of the laws by the Health Ministry also provides for more possibilities to use the existing rapid antigen tests in professional life.

To this end, the number of institutions that will have access to the rapid tests is to be expanded. “Critical infrastructures” will also be given the opportunity to acquire tests, the draft states. Among others, the energy, IT, telecommunications, transport and traffic sectors are mentioned.

The Social Democrat's health expert Karl Lauterbach called for regular testing in companies.

“Studies show quite clearly: if the workforces of companies were tested twice a week with an antigen test, so to speak, at the start of work, those who are not in the home office, then one would be able to massively reduce the number of new infections,” he said in an interview with broadcaster RTL/ntv.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.