Doctors’ association accuses German Health Ministry of causing ‘test chaos’

After free rapid testing was rolled out across Germany on Monday in a delayed and restricted form, the deputy head of the National Doctors’ Association (KBV) accused the government of mishandling the project.

Doctors’ association accuses German Health Ministry of causing ‘test chaos’
A test centre in Berlin. Photo: Jörg Carstensen/DPA

The implementation of the rapid testing strategy was organized in a “completely rushed and back-to-front manner that led to chaos from the start”, said Stephan Hofmeister, deputy head of the KBV.

Health Minister Jens Spahn promised in February to provide free rapid testing for all by the start of March. But he appears not to have agreed on the plan beforehand with Angela Merkel, leading to a dispute between Spahn and the Chancellor over its implementation.

Eventually, the federal government and states agreed to start offering each resident of Germany one free test per week, with doctors, pharmacies and tests centres expected to implement the strategy.

READ ALSO: Schnell’ vs ‘Selbst’: The key differences between Germany’s new Covid-19 tests

But Hofmeister said that GPs had first received the details of the new regulation on Monday.

“No wonder that doctors feel like this has been sprung upon them,” he said, explaining that the GPs needed both time to acquire test kits and have a clear and non bureaucratic plan for conducting the testing.

“Clearly, it is always forgotten that our doctors’ practises need to deal with millions of acute and chronic illnesses every day and are already stretched enough as it is,” Hofmeister added.

The government has called the nationwide deployment of testing a cornerstone of its plan to slowly open the economy back up even as cases have slowly started to rise again in recent weeks.

Not enough tests

State governments lambasted the federal government over the weekend for not delivering enough test kits for the start of the test regime. The federal government shot back, saying states were responsible for ordering the tests kits themselves.

The confusion over the test strategy comes after a slow rollout of the vaccination campaign, leading to a loss of trust in the government on the part of German voters.

Experts say though that the vaccine shortages will be a thing of the past by April.

On Tuesday the Robert Koch Institute released the latest data on the spread of the virus and its public health impact.

A total of 4,252 new infections were reported on Tuesday morning, with an additional 255 deaths. That marks a slight rise compared to last Tuesday when 3,943 new cases were recorded.

At the same time the so-called 7-day incidence of cases per 100,000 people dropped slightly to 67.5 from 68 on Monday. Four weeks ago, on February 9th, the seven-day incidence was 72.8.

Since the start of the pandemic, the RKI has recorded 2.5 million confirmed infections although the actual number is likely to be considerably higher due to the fact that many infections are never recognized.

The total number of people in Germany who have died with or of an infection with Sars-Cov-2 is 72,189.

READ MORE: These are the lockdown rules relaxed on Monday

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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. 


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.”