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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: Who will still get free Covid tests in Germany from October?

From next month, Germany is getting rid of its taxpayer-funded free rapid tests. Who will still get them for free? And how much will they cost to others?

EXPLAINED: Who will still get free Covid tests in Germany from October?
A drive-in testing station in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

What’s happening?

As we learned in August, the German government is planning to severely restrict access to free Covid rapid tests from October 11th onwards. The move is aimed at encouraging more people to get vaccinated. 

A new draft bill sheds more light on the plans. 

READ MORE:

Who will still get free tests?

According to the draft document by the Health Ministry, which was viewed by Germany’ ws Business Insider, free rapid Covid tests will still be available to the following four groups:

  • People who cannot be vaccinated for health or medical reasons. This can be the case if someone has an autoimmune disease or after an organ transplant
  • Those for whom there is no vaccination recommendation, for example pregnant women and children under the age of 12
  • People who have Covid 19-type symptoms
  • People who frequently attend facilities where there is close contact with high-risk patients, such as in health care and nursing settings

What about children and teenagers?

The draft provides a transitional rule for children and adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17. For them, free Covid tests are set to expire at the end of November.

This is to give this age group enough time to get their vaccination, which has only recently been officially recommended by the German vaccine panel STIKO.

What does it mean for everyone else?

Anyone who doesn’t fit the groups above will have to pay for Covid tests from next month. So regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not, you will not receive free rapid tests. 

As Germany requires that people show proof of vaccination (geimpft), recovery from Covid (genesen) or a negative test (getestet) – known as the 3G rule – to enter many indoor spaces, it could get expensive for those who choose not to get vaccinated. 

Vaccinated people who travel abroad and usually get a free rapid test will also no longer have that chance. 

READ ALSO: 

The Health Ministry says that taxpayer-funded tests cannot be justified now that everyone has been offered a Covid vaccination. 

“Since a direct vaccination offer can now be made to all citizens, permanent assumption of the costs for all tests by the federal government, and thus the taxpayer, is no longer appropriate or necessary,” the Health Ministry says.

For every million rapid tests, the government says it will save up to €10 million, as well as another €3.5 million for material costs.

“The offer of free rapid tests for asymptomatic persons will therefore not be continued in this form,” said the Health Ministry. 

People who have Covid symptoms will still be able to get a free test. Usually doctors offer a PCR test, which is covered by health insurance.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Covid testing as a visitor to Germany 

How expensive will tests be?

That’s not clear at the moment. 

“No one can really say,” a Health Ministry spokeswoman told Focus Online. This will be decided “on the free market”.

Currently, the federal government reimburses providers €11.50 for rapid tests and €43.56 for PCR tests.

These could be indications for future prices, the spokeswoman said.

Before the introduction of free testing in March, pharmacies, doctors and testing stations charged between €20 and €50 for a rapid test.

Depending on where you get tested, however, there may be higher prices. 

For example, a PCR swab at the test centre in Munich Airport costs €128 (including test results within two to four hours). A rapid test is available for €45.

At Frankfurt Airport, testing facilities charge €89 for a PCR test with a result within 12 hours. The rapid test costs €29.

Bavaria’s BR24 asked some regional test centres – which reported that they are very busy at the moment – what they plan to charge in future.  

Daniel Fröhler of the private testing station in Taufkirchen said: “In order to continue to be able to work competitively and economically, the prices at our company for a rapid test will probably settle at around €19 and the PCR test will be available for €79, as it is now.”

Oliver Urban from the Medicare testing station in Regensburg, said: “We can only estimate the price at the moment. It will most likely be between €15 and €20 for the rapid test, and the PCR test will cost €119.80, since the laboratory costs alone are so high.”

Pressure on the unvaccinated increases

Even if the exact price for tests is still up in the air – one thing is clear: for people who do not want to be vaccinated, the pressure on their wallets will grow.

As the colder weather comes in and more activities move inside, unvaccinated people will have to fork out for a test to do things like eat inside a restaurant, visit a bar or go to the cinema. 

The move by the government to charge for tests has split the country. A majority of Local readers told us they were in favour of the plans – but some had reservations. 

READ ALSO: Motivation to get vaccinated or coercion? Mixed views on Germany’s plan to charge for Covid tests

People at the testing station in Taufkirchen also had differing views.

Markus Kleinhuber told BR24 he was against charging for tests: “Firstly, vaccinations are free of charge, why should I pay for a test if the vaccination is free – in other words, equal rights for all,” he said. “And secondly, I stand by the position: definitely testing for everyone, including vaccinated people.”

Manfred Fleischmann, on the other hand, sees things differently: “Those who don’t want to be vaccinated have to protect themselves in some other way and get tested,” he said.

Where will people be able to get tests?

It is unclear at the moment how many testing spots will remain open. Currently there’s a network of testing stations across the country, but some may shut their doors if the demand drops when paid-for tests are brought in.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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