SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

COVID-19 TESTS

EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany

Most people now have to pay to get an antigen test in Germany. Here's what you should know about the new rules.

People walk past a test centre in Frankfurt.
People walk past a test centre in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

What’s happening? 

Until this point everyone in Germany was entitled to at least one free Covid-19 rapid test per week by trained staff. It included a test result certificate which could be delivered to the person by email or in paper. 

But the free-for-all offer has now been “suspended”, according to the Federal Ministry of Health.

The revised testing regulation with the new rules took effect on Thursday June 30th. 

READ ALSO: Germany starts charging for Covid tests 

Who will continue to get a free test?

The Health Ministry says the entitlement to so-called Bürgertests is intended to protect particularly vulnerable people.

These include people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons – like women in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Others to receive free access to tests include family carers and people with disabilities, as well as their carers.

Furthermore, household members of people who have Covid, children up to the age of five, and residents and visitors of nursing homes, institutions for people with disabilities and clinics do not have to pay for a rapid test.

A person gets a Covid test swab in Oldenburg.

A person gets a Covid test swab in Oldenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Visitors and people receiving treatment or residents in inpatient or outpatient hospital facilities can also get free tests, as well as people taking part in Covid clinical trials. 

People who need proof that they are negative after a Covid-19 infection, so they can go back to work for example, can still get tested for free.

Employees of nursing homes and hospitals should continue to take Covid rapid tests in their facilities, says the Health Ministry.

How do people prove they are entitled to a free test?

Anyone who wants to claim free testing must identify themselves to the testing agency and provide proof. For example, a birth certificate or passport (for children), and the maternity pass for pregnant women.

Those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons must present an official medical certificate from their doctor. 

For those getting a test due to a household member being positive, they have to show the positive PCR test of their housemate and proof of matching residential address. 

Who has to pay €3 to get a test?

The €3 tests are intended for private use, including for visits to family celebrations, concerts or another “indoor event”, such as the theatre. 

This is aimed at helping prevent so-called superspreader events, where many people get Covid at once.

A €3 test should also be granted to anyone who gets a red Covid warning on their Corona Warn app, or who plans to meet someone – or people – over the age of 60 or people with a pre-existing illness or disability.

Do you need to provide proof for this?

Yes. The Health Ministry says: “This can be done, for example, by showing an admission ticket to an event, the Corona Warning app or, in the case of contact with high-risk patients, a self-disclosure form or a digital registration process.”

The person getting the test signs a document stating why they are getting the test. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Thursday that documenting why tests were taking place would help stop fraud as random checks can be carried out. 

What other documents are required?

As before, an official photo ID has to be presented, such as a passport.

Will this be a bit confusing in practice?

It does appear to be a little unclear on how things will work. Plus many people in Germany, and tourists, won’t know about the change in rules since it came about so quickly. 

There was also some confusion on the point of visits to elderly or people with previous illnesses. People who visit relatives in clinics or nursing homes can still get a test free of charge. However, the regulation also states that those who want to meet with over-60s or those with previous illnesses must pay an additional €3 for a test.

A spokesman from the Health Ministry said the difference is whether the meeting is in an institution (where the test is free) or if it’s a private meeting (where a €3 payment is due).

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status 

Why is the test offer being restricted?

It was getting too expensive. According to Lauterbach, Bürgertests cost €1 billion per month. The government has reportedly spent more than €10.5 billion on free antigen tests during the pandemic, with suspected fraud of up to €1.5 billion.

The government is also reducing the amount that is given to the test centres per antigen test – from the current €11.50 to €9.50.

A total of €6.50 from the federal government will be added to the €3 to reimburse centres.

Will any German states take over the €3 contribution payment for a test?

Lauterbach previously referred to the possibility that federal states could take over the €3 payment for residents, or groups of residents.

The states, however, quickly signalled that there were no plans to do so.

The €3 would not be replaced “in any of the states”, said Baden-Wuerttemberg’s health minister Manne Lucha (Greens) on Tuesday.

What happens if you get Covid symptoms?

People with Covid symptoms should contact their GP. Doctors in Germany can order a PCR test as part of medical treatment if Covid-19, which will be covered by the patient’s health insurance. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

COVID-19 RULES

Which German states are planning to bring back masks indoors?

With Covid infections once again on the rise, German states like Berlin are considering bringing in stricter Covid rules. So what changes to current measures could we see - and when?

Which German states are planning to bring back masks indoors?

What’s going on?

Since the start of October, federal states in Germany have had the power to implement new mask-wearing and testing rules in their regions. 

While a few basic measures – including mask-wearing in clinics and on long-distance trains – still apply nationwide, state health ministries can decide for themselves whether to introduce stricter measures in response to rising infections and hospitalisations. 

That includes bringing back mandatory masks in supermarkets and other indoor spaces, or reintroducing testing in schools and nurseries. 

Though Covid infections has been shooting up in recent weeks, most states have seemed content to keep bare-bones measures in place. That could be about to change.

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

In Berlin, health senator Ulrike Gote (Greens) has put forward plans for the reintroduction of masks in retail outlets, museums and other public buildings. According to mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD), the proposals haven’t yet been discussed in the Senate – but a push from Gote could see the capital becoming the first of Germany’s sixteen states to tighten up their Covid rules for winter.

In neighbouring Brandenburg, the health ministry also appears to be leaning towards a sharpening of measures. Over the weekend, health minister Ursula Nonnemacher (Greens) told various media outlets that she wanted to extend mandatory masks to shops and municipal buildings such as the Bürgeramt.

Though there are no plans to reintroduce masks in places like museums, cinemas and theatres, Nonnemacher said she was concerned that hospitals could become overburdened with Covid patients in the colder months. 

Further afield, the city-state of Bremen also looks set to discuss whether to bring back mandatory masks in shops and other businesses in the near future. A decision is expected to be made by the Senate on Tuesday. 

Could other states follow suit?

At present, states are keeping a close eye on the latest Covid stats – though in most cases it’s unclear which criteria are being used to determine when a tightening of rules would be appropriate. 

One state bucking that trend is Lower Saxony. The northern state uses a combination of metrics to decide which level of its Covid measures should apply. If the weekly incidence of hospitalisations reaches more than 15 per 100,000 people and at least 10 percent of intensive care beds are occupied by Covid patients, the state will apply its ‘Stage One’ rules. These include masks in all public indoor spaces, with exceptions for people with a negative test. 

As of Monday, the hospitalisation incidence was at 15.1, while Covid patients were occupying five percent of intensive care beds. That means a spike in intensive care patients could prompt the ministry to tighten up rules once again. 

In Hesse, a sharp rise in Covid patients in both ordinary and intensive care wards along with high levels of sickness among hospital staff has prompted the ministry to start consultations on extending the mask rules. 

“The infection situation and the situation of health care in Hesse are being monitored very carefully,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Affairs told The Local. “In close coordination with the hospitals and the medical profession, the state government is preparing to take measures, if necessary, to avoid overloading the hospitals. This close coordination is underway.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Where Covid infections are rising rapidly in Germany

The southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg could also act to extend its mask rules in the coming days or weeks. “It may be that we say relatively quickly that wearing masks indoors will become mandatory,” state health minister Manfred Lucha (Greens) told SWR on Monday. 

In neighbouring Rhineland Palatinate, the health ministry is “monitoring the situation and the incidence of infection very closely”, health minister Clemens Hoch (SPD) said in a statement. “At the moment, we are still relying on people’s personal responsibility. However, it is still strongly recommended to wear masks as consistently as possible in situations where many people come together. The state is also in close contact with the hospitals.”

Supermarket Covid measures Germany

A supermarket sign advises customers to wear a Covid mask while shopping. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Hoch said the state had chosen not to use fixed thresholds like the incidence to determine whether more measures should be rolled out, since other factors like staffing levels needed to be taken into account. Most of the Covid patients in hospital are currently being treated not “for” but “with” the virus, he added. 

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Covid infections are rising rapidly, and the health ministry expects the spike in cases to have an impact on the healthcare system and intensive care wards. However, since the rate of sick leave in hospitals is roughly in line with previous years, the ministry believes the situation is “tense but manageable”. 

“Against this background, the ministry does not see any need for additional protective measures at the moment,” a spokesperson for the ministry explained. 

READ ALSO: What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

Saxony’s health ministry also said it had no plans to tighten its mask-wearing rules. “Our criterion for stricter measures has always been the overloading of hospitals by Covid patients,” a spokesperson explained. However, people with pre-existing medical conditions and over-60s are still advised to wear a mask indoors. 

According to official advice in Bavaria, people should wear a mask wherever a large number of people are present – but aside from compulsory masks in clinics and on public transport, this is largely left up to the individual to decide. 

“The Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL) is closely observing the development of Covid and relies on multi-layered monitoring,” a spokesperson for the health ministry told The Local. “Together, we are assessing the current situation on this basis. Should the monitoring reveal the need for further measures, we will act immediately. At present, we see no reason to do so – but we are prepared to take rapid steps.” 

What’s the Health Minister saying? 

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has been calling on states to bring in tighter measures since the start of October. 

In a press conference held in Berlin on Friday, Lauterbach reiterated his appeal to the health ministries to stem the current tide of infections and hospitalisations.

“We have no reason to believe that the wave we are facing is self-limiting,” he told reporters. “The direction we are heading is not a good one.”

With the autumn wave gaining momentum, Lauterbach isn’t the only voice in the federal government urging states to take action. 

READ ALSO: German health minister urges states to bring back mask-wearing indoors

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD)

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) takes off his mask ahead of a press statement on the Covid infection protection measures in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Writing on Twitter, Greens health expert Maria Klein-Schmeink reminded states that they had demanded powers to introduce tougher measures in the fight against the pandemic. 

“They got it, but now they have to use it,” she said. “Omicron has a high potential for infection and is now threatening to push our critical infrastructure, especially the healthcare system, over the limit.”

The Marburger Bund doctors’ association have also called for masks on both public transport and in other public indoor spaces in recent days. 

But there has also been pushback. Senior politicians such as Bavarian state premier Markus Söder (CSU) and lobbyists from the retail sector have both come out against an extension of the mask-wearing rules to shops, restaurants and other indoor spaces.

SHOW COMMENTS