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.
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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.”