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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about rapid Covid testing around Germany

As Germany begins to reopen public life, you might fin it hard to wrap your head around exactly when and where you need to get a Covid-19 test. We break down the rules for the country's five most populous states.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about rapid Covid testing around Germany
A rapid testing centre is set up outside of Tierpark on May 6th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

Each German state has slightly different rules for when you need to present a negative Covid-19 test result. Luckily, you are entitled to at least one free rapid test per week throughout the country. 

Germany is following the Geimpft, Genesen oder Getestet (vaccinated, recovered or tested) strategy, meaning that you can enter shops, outdoor dining areas and in some cases indoor hospitality facilities as long as you can prove you have either been tested for the Covid-19 virus, recently recovered from the infection, or been fully vaccinated. 

Below we explain where and how to get tested for coronavirus in five of Germany’s most populous states, as well as the places you will be required to present a negative test result. 

Berlin

In Berlin, you can get free rapid antigen tests or Schnelltests in countless test centres around the city. Everyone is entited to one free test a day.

However, it is not recommended that you go to these centres if you have symptoms of a Covid-19 infection, in which case you should follow government advice on self-isolation, and getting a PCR test. This is a rule everywhere in Germany.

Also keep in mind that if you get a positive rapid test result, you are required to get a PCR test to confirm the result and follow advice on self-isolation.

Almost all shops, besides supermarkets, post offices, pharmacies and a few other essential stores require you to present proof of a negative test result from a test centre from the last 24 hours. Now that cafés and restaurants have reopened outdoor dining, you will also need a negative test if you want to eat out at any of these. 

READ ALSO: Germans return to pools and beer gardens as some Covid curbs are lifted

The Test-to-Go website lets you search for a testing facility close to you and also lets you know whether or not you need to book an appointment beforehand, or whether you can get a test as a walk-in.

Most test centres will not require an appointment, but it may be quicker if you register beforehand and simply present your confirmation QR code on arrival. Make sure to bring some ID with you, such as a passport or driving license. 

Bavaria

Bavaria’s health secretary announced at the start of May that the state would be massively widening its testing campaign, with drugstores and hardware stores now able to register as rapid test centres. Schnelltests have been available to all residents in the southern state since March 2021.

There are 97 official test centres in Bavaria, and residents can search for their closest facility here, as well as for local pharmacies offering the rapid antigen tests. Residents can get at least one free rapid test per week. The website also shows the opening hours and booking requirements for each test centre.

Whether you need a test to enter shops in Bavaria is based on the 7-day incidence rate in the local area. Since April 12th, new regulations have been in effect for retail stores depending on the regional 7-day incidence value. 

Most regions have an incidence between 50 and 100, which means that ‘click and meet’ appointment shopping is available without a coronavirus test. If the local incidence rate is below 50, there are no in-store shopping restrictions in place, but if it rises above 100 again, a negative test will be necessary for click and meet. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria and Berlin ease rules for vaccinated people

North Rhine-Westphalia

In NRW, in areas where the 7-day incidence rate is below 100, shoppers can enter stores without an appointment and without a negative test result. When the rate drops to between 35.1 and 50, outdoor sports will be allowed without a test, and indoor sports will be permitted for those who can present a test result that is less than 24 hours old. 

Most of the test centres in NRW require a pre-booked appointment, but the rapid antigen tests are free. Local testing facilities along with booking information can be found here.

Hesse

In Hesse, you are also entitled to free rapid Covid-19 tests, even multiple times a week. The tests can be booked through the test centre website and results can come through in as little as 15 minutes. 

In Hesse, all but essential shops are remaining closed until May 30th, with the exception of click and meet, for which a negative test result is generally required. As long as the 7-day incidence rate remains below 100 after this date, the rules on shopping will be relaxed, but a negative test result will still be necessary to enter most stores. 

Baden-Württemberg

Residents of Baden-Württemberg can get free rapid tests at centres around the region. Local testing facilities, as well as relevant booking information, can be found here.

To enter into certain facilities, a negative test result that is no more than 24 hours old is necessary. At the moment, click and meet shopping is available without a Covid-19 test, though there are limits to the number of customers allowed in each shop. 

Some restaurants have been able to open indoor seating, for which a negative result is necessary. This also applies to outdoor dining, which is now open throughout the southwestern state.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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