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How to find rapid Covid tests in Germany ahead of Christmas

Covid self-testing kits have become increasingly scarce in Germany in recent months, reflecting the high demand caused by new 3G rules and socialising. But experts say anyone who wants a test can get one - provided they put in a bit of extra effort. Here's how.

Covid self-testing kits
A German school pupil takes a test in the classroom. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

What’s going on?

Along with virology and epidemiology, the mechanics of supply chains and market economics have been yet another specialised topic us laypeople have had to learn about during the pandemic.

As the infamous toilet paper famine of 2020 taught us, shops tend to be woefully unprepared for a sudden run on their everyday products, since their orders of that product are based on the demand in ‘normal’ times and retailers often try to minimise the amount of expensive storage space they use. 

This is exactly what’s going on with rapid tests at the moment, experts believe. When the antigen testing kits first hit the market in March, there was huge demand for a product that would allow people to test themselves at home and gain peace of mind while the infection rates were high. Accordingly, tests started becoming increasingly expensive and hard to find.

This demand then dropped over summer when infections were continuously low and people could get free Bürgertests at any testing centre. This in turn drove the prices down – and availability went up. 

Now, with infection rates still at a high level and a range of new anti-Covid measures coming in, people are once again turning to the rapid tests in their droves. Companies are ordering them in bulk to help unvaccinated employees cope with the ‘3G’ (vaccinated, recovered or tested) rule in the workplace, while others may be buying them privately for socialising with friends and family over Christmas. 

READ ALSO: Celebrate Christmas with ‘closest circle’ says head of German health agency

The fallout is that tests seem to have become increasing scarce – and it’s not in the least bit uncommon to find an empty shelf and a “sold out” sign when on the hunt for them. It can be hugely frustrating for people wanting to be responsible to find that they can’t get hold of a test. But rest assured, it is still possible – it may just take a bit effort than it did in summer.  

Is this affecting the test centres?

At the moment at least, it doesn’t look like it – so your best option may be to try and get tested at one of the dedicated testing points in your state. After a brief period of paid-for tests and low demand, the test centre machinery is swinging back into life, so it shouldn’t be hard for people to find a local test centre to walk into for a free Bürgertest.

If you’re in Berlin, this incredibly helpful map of local testing centres could help you find your nearest centre. Fellow city state Hamburg also offers a similar map of locations that offer rapid tests.

Further south, aid organisation Johannitern Bayern runs 23 testing centres in Bavaria – though people are advised to book their appointments early. In addition, appointments for free Covid tests are also offered through the Bavarian Red Cross (BRK), with appointments listed on the BRK website

Sign for test centre
A sign points the way to a local test centre in Binz, Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. Testing centres may currently be the quickest and easiest way to get tested. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

To the west in North Rhine-Westphalia, this interactive map allows you to search by postcode to find the nearest test centre to you, while in Hesse, a searchable list of centres across the state can be found here.

As an alternative, people often forget – or simply don’t know – that most pharmacies also offer free-of-charge tests to customers. The best way to find an offer near you is to head to the ‘Mein Apothekemanager’ search portal, enter your postcode and select ‘Covid-19 Schnelltest’ on the ‘Serviceleistungen’ drop-down bar. 

The rapid tests are for people without Covid-19 symptoms. If you have Covid symptoms, it’s always best to contact your GP, because they can offer the more reliable PCR tests via your health insurance if they believe you may have Covid. 

READ ALSO:

What about supermarkets, pharmacies and drug stores? 

For people who prefer to test in the comfort of their own home, there could some light on the horizon. According to Bavarian news site BR24, supermarkets and pharmacies have started capping the number of tests per customer in order to ensure there are enough to go around.

Rossmann, for example, will only sell 10 tests to each customer at a time. Aldi Süd, meanwhile, told BR24 that there were generally enough tests for everyone, but that peak demand could lead to some stores running out. The supermarket brand is now advising its customers to only buy the tests in “household quantities” in order to ensure availability for everyone. 

When should I try and buy tests?

The answer from people in the know is: as soon as possible.

According to Peter Sandmann of the Bavarian Pharmacists’ Association, the run on antigen tests has eased up slightly over the past few weeks, meaning it could be a good time to try to find them. 

If the tests are ever sold out in one pharmacy, other pharmacies might still have enough on hand, he told BR24. 

“My recommendation is actually to think about it early on: How many tests do I need? And start buying these tests early and not just on Christmas Eve. Because then it could get really tight under certain circumstances,” says Sandmann.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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