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German supermarket Aldi sells out of home tests hours after they go on sale

The supermarket chain Aldi started selling home corona tests on Saturday morning, but within hours, many stores reported that their stocks had run dry.

German supermarket Aldi sells out of home tests hours after they go on sale
Customers queue outside Aldi on Saturday morning. Photo: DPA

The budget supermarket made the tests available directly at the check out, with one customer allowed to buy one pack containing five tests.

Many Aldi stores reported that stocks had run out on Saturday morning (March 6th), although resupplies of the tests which cost €25, were reportedly on the way.

Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd announced in advance that the products could be sold out on the first day of sales if demand proved to be very high.

Lidl, another major supermarket chain, started selling the tests via its internet platform also on Saturday, but stocks there also appear to have been booked up. A message on the page asks customers to “please try again at a later time.”

Competitors Rewe and Edeka also want to start selling the tests in the near future, while the drugstore chains Rossmann and dm plan to start sales on Tuesday, March 9th.

On February 24th, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices granted the first special approvals for tests for self-administration at home.

Free rapid tests from next week

On Wednesday (March 3rd) a coronavirus summit between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 federal and state governments decided that every German resident would be able to receive a free “conventional” rapid test, completed by a medical professional starting next week. Drugstore chain DM has already been accepting sign-ups for in-store testing sites.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: This is Germany’s five-step plan to head out of shutdown

Health Minister Jens Spahn had originally announced that free rapid tests would be available to all from March 1st – but this plan has been changed slightly.

In concrete terms, it means at least one rapid test per week will now be offered to people in Germany. It will be carried out by a trained member of staff in test centres or surgeries, for example. 

In addition, according to the plans of the federal and state governments, a joint task force is to be set up to procure tests quickly and cheaply.

How easy is it to test yourself at home?

There’s a big plus for the new rapid DIY tests: the sample with the cotton swab can be taken in the anterior nasal region, so it’s fairly easy to do at home.

The professional rapid tests, on the other hand, collect the sample material far back in the nose or deep in the throat – meaning that a specialist is needed to assist.

No additional laboratory equipment is needed for the rapid tests. The principle is similar to a pregnancy test: after 15 to 20 minutes, test strips indicate whether the patient is coronavirus positive or negative.

The Frankfurt virologist Sandra Ciesek sees few problems with the at-home tests: “I think everyone gets how to do a nasal smear, and if not, there are enough videos to show them how,” she said in the NDR podcast Coronavirus Update.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s new at-home coronavirus tests

However, rapid tests are not as reliable as PCR tests which are analysed in a lab. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), if the result of an antigen test is positive, the person should isolate and contact their doctor or local health department to arrange for a PCR test.

People are also reminded to continue to stick to distance and hygiene rules, even if they have a negative rapid test result.

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COVID-19 TESTS

Germany set to bring back free Covid tests

Germany is planning to bring back the offer of a free rapid Covid test per week to residents as concerns grow over the rising number of infections.

A test centre in Berlin shows the costs for a rapid and PCR test.
A test centre in Berlin shows the costs for a rapid and PCR test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Paul Zinken

The German government shelved taxpayer-funded antigen tests on October 11th, saying it could no longer justify the free tests now that everyone has been offered a Covid vaccine. It was also hoped that getting rid of free tests would encourage more people to get vaccinated. 

The move meant people have had to pay a fee for tests out of their own pocket – and it has particularly impacted unvaccinated people who need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to access many indoor public facilities in Germany like eating indoors at a restaurant. 

READ MORE: 

But due to the rise in Covid infections in Germany, free antigen tests are set to return. 

According to a draft regulation by the outgoing federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), the aim is to encourage people to get tested who may be avoiding tests for financial reasons, DPA learned from government sources on Wednesday.

Reports by German media said the new regulation is to come into force as early as next week. 

Everyone in Germany will then be entitled to at least one free Schnelltest a week.

The draft reportedly states that vaccinated people are also encouraged to get tested because they can get Covid-19 “and thus pose a risk, especially to vulnerable groups of people”.

Current rapid test providers across Germany can continue to operate. But the government draft says only medical supply stores (like pharmacies) and drugstores will be commissioned to provide tests in future. 

The aim is to prevent pop-up test stations which have previously appeared when tests were free. 

Earlier this week, coalition parties in talks to form a new government said free access to rapid tests should be brought back.

It comes after top German virologist Christian Drosten said the country needed tough contact restrictions to prevent at least 100,000 deaths.

“We have a real emergency situation now,” he said. “We need to do something immediately.”

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