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.”

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Leading doctor calls for compulsory tests for everyone returning to Germany, including vaccinated

Everyone should have to be tested for Covid when they return to Germany from abroad, even those who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, the head of the World Medical Association said on Saturday.

Leading doctor calls for compulsory tests for everyone returning to Germany, including vaccinated
"If you can afford a trip abroad, you can afford a rapid test:: Head of the World Medical Association Frank Ulrich Montgomery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

Frank Ulrich Montgomery said that such a step would be reasonable, referring to the increasing number of cases of so-called vaccine escape, where some people still get symptomatic infection despite being vaccinated.

“Everyone, without exception, arriving in the country must show a negative Covid test, including those who have been vaccinated and/or have recovered from Covid,” he told Germany’s Funke Media group on Saturday,

Since August 1st, everyone over the age of 12 — if they have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from the virus — must show a negative test when they return to Germany, irrespective of whether they travelled by plane, train or car.

“If you can afford a trip abroad, you can afford a rapid test,” said Montgomery.

As well as calling for compulsory testing for all travellers, he said he also wanted to see more rights being offered to vaccinated people to increase vaccination levels in the country.

He highlighted the example of France as proof this worked well: “You can no longer go to a restaurant or to the cinema there if you haven’t been vaccinated,” he said.

Although the increasing number of Covid cases was a concern, he said that the fact that almost two-thirds of the population had now been vaccinated meant that “it will not be as dicey as last year, but it’s still worrying. Because we still have a huge gap of unvaccinated people in the 18-59-year-old age group”. 

He said everything should be done to encourage unvaccinated people to have their jabs: “But bonuses, free beer or sausages won’t be of use, only rights for vaccinated people”.