October 11 marks a turning point in Germany's fight against the Corona pandemic. As of that very Monday, rapid tests by trained personnel are no longer free.
After seven months - the tests were introduced at federal expense on March 8, 2021 - the federal government is pulling out of the business. "Abolishing free citizen tests is dictated by fairness to the taxpayer," Health Minister Jens Spahn has been saying for several weeks, referring to the free vaccination offer that remains in place.
However, the state does not completely withdraw from responsibility in the testing strategy. There are exceptions for all those who cannot be vaccinated and for young people.
Specifically, these transitional rules, which will apply until the end of the year for the time being, are aimed at pregnant women, minors and people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
According to the current Corona Test Ordinance, children under the age of 12 are entitled to free tests, as there is no general vaccination recommendation for them by the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO).
While this is the case for children and adolescents 12 to 18 years of age, as well as pregnant women, exceptions also apply to them - until December 31. "In order to allow these individuals sufficient time to inform themselves about the existing vaccination offers and to obtain full vaccination protection, they continue to be entitled to free testing until the end of the year," the site of the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) states.
In addition, there are still free tests the difficult-to-quantify minority of those unvaccinated for medical necessity. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), this includes two groupings: People with certain allergies and people with an immunodeficiency.
Anyone who is the contact person of an infected person and wishes to be cleared from quarantine is also entitled to a free test.As the last exceptional groups, the BMG names "students from abroad who are in Germany for studies and were vaccinated with vaccines not recognized in Germany" and test persons "who are participating in clinical studies on the efficacy of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus".
For all these target groups, proof of vaccination is required, which generally includes official identification. In addition, a medical certificate must be available for those who are medically involuntarily unvaccinated. For pregnant women, the maternity passport is valid as proof.
But there are still free testing options for those not targeted by the exemption rules. Employers must continue to offer testing to their employees at the company's regular workplace at least twice a week, according to the current Corona Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance - for now until Nov. 24.
Nursing homes, hospitals and schools also can continue to offer free testing to staff and residents.
Of course, people who are suspected of being infected based on their symptoms will still not have to pay for testing either. The prerequisite for this is a medical or official order for a rapid antigen test or a PCR test.
This applies in particular to notifications via the Corona warning app. If this shows a red alert, i.e. a risk contact, the addressees must immediately contact a family doctor's practice or the public health department. Commonly, a free PCR test is then arranged.
Those who do not belong to the exceptional groups and cannot take advantage of one of the few options that are still free of charge must now pay for tests according to the new federal regulation, which stems from the federal-state decision in August.
There is no one-size-fits-all price, but there are unlikely to be any offers below EUR 12 - previously, the federal government had reimbursed EUR 11.50 per rapid test performed and EUR 43.56 for PCR tests.It is quite possible that the market will now also develop an unleashed dynamic in this area. RBB reports, citing information from companies in Berlin and Brandenburg, that larger test providers will in future be calculating with prices of around 12 to 25 euros per rapid test and from around 60 to 120 euros per PCR test.
Image by Hermann Kollinger