Without free citizen tests in the Corona autumn: what that could mean

Take a quick test for free: From June 30th this could only be possible for certain groups of people.Image: dpa / Jonas Walzberg


06/24/2022, 13:3124.06.2022, 14:10

Evelyn Pol
Rebecca Sawicki

Farewell to free citizen tests.

If Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has his way, most citizens should pay for their corona tests themselves after June 30th. Then they should cost 3 euros per test. And this while the infection curve continues to climb undeterred. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) gave the nationwide seven-day incidence on Friday morning at 618.2.

However, visitors to hospitals, nursing homes or large events as well as people who have symptoms of illness should continue to be tested free of charge.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach would like to restrict access to free corona tests for cost and quality reasons.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach would like to restrict access to free corona tests for cost and quality reasons.Image: dpa / Michael Kappeler

With costs of up to one billion euros per month, the tests are too expensive, said Lauterbach. But that’s not all: The tests should also be used more sensibly than before.

That’s what politics says

Lauterbach’s new strategy is not only met with approval, outside and within the coalition. So criticized the health policy spokesman for the Greens, Janosch Dahmen on Wednesday, also in Interview with Deutschlandfunk:

“I consider the tests to be a crucial tool for maintaining an overview of the pandemic and at the same time the crucial tool for each individual to behave responsibly, especially in contact with risk groups.”

The free tests would have saved us from many chains of infection in Germany – a broad-based, free test strategy is also needed in the coming autumn.

The opposition politician Kathrin Vogler (left) sees it similarly. When asked by Watson, the health policy spokeswoman for her group said: “The federal government must immediately end the data blind flight in the case of corona infections.”

Left-wing politician Kathrin Vogler.

Left-wing politician Kathrin Vogler.Image: PHOTOTHEK / Xander Heinl

The tests should continue to be free. Vogler says:

“The deficiencies in the rapid tests should have been addressed long ago. However, the solution cannot be to limit access to rapid tests and thereby further unsettle the population.”

Only if as many people as possible were tested without cause would it be possible to identify symptom-free courses. With PCR tests for positive rapid tests, the official statistics should then be able to reliably depict the infection process. Vogler also insists on unprovoked PCR tests like in Austria.

The health policy spokesman for the largest opposition faction sees it very differently. When asked by Watson, Tino Sorge (CDU) replied: “The billion-dollar, unprovoked tests must be ended. The potential for abuse from dubious test sites is far too high.“Targeted and event-related tests make more sense. He cites concrete symptoms as examples, but also particularly endangered facilities such as nursing homes. Untargeted mass tests, on the other hand, are not effective.

CDU politician Tino Sorge.

CDU politician Tino Sorge.Image: imago images

Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, the health policy spokeswoman for the FDP parliamentary group, refers to the public Expert hearing on free PCR citizen tests. According to the experts, mass testing with these sensitive tests – i.e. not the antigen citizen tests – currently makes no sense. Aschenberg Dugnus says:

“The signal is that financial resources in the healthcare system should not be spent on measures that are ineffective in terms of infectious diseases. Because future generations will have to bear the costs.”

Of course, the vulnerable group must be protected by tests – people with symptoms should also continue to be entitled to a test. However, Aschenberg-Dugnus also advocates using the figures from the Robert Koch Institute as a guide: “According to estimates, over 90 percent of the population has already come into contact with the virus through infection or vaccination.”

According to a study case mortality has also fallen drastically (from 4.5 to 0.1 percent).

FDP politician Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus.

FDP politician Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus.Image: www.imago-images.de / Political Moments

The FDP politician finds it important that such results are shared with the population. Transparent communication would be needed. She says: “Fear and panic about Covid were and are not advisable.”

“There is no doubt about the sense of the tests,” explains the health policy spokeswoman for the SPD, Heike Baehrens, when asked by Watson. The tests would help to keep an up-to-date overview of the infection process. At the same time, they prevented many infections.

SPD politician Heike Baehrens.

SPD politician Heike Baehrens.Image: dpa / Michael Kappeler

It is therefore in the interest of the government to maintain an easily accessible test infrastructure. In turn, it is not justified “to involve the federal states in the financing, as requested by the Budget Committee of the German Bundestag.” Baehrens is hoping for an agreement with the federal states on how to share the costs. She clarifies: “In any case, the federal government will continue to bear part of the costs.”

That’s what the Corona expert says

Prof. Timo Ulrichs from the Akkon University for Human Medicine in Berlin.

Prof. Timo Ulrichs from the Akkon University for Human Medicine in Berlin.Image: www.imago-images.de / teutopress GmbH

For the epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs, on the other hand, one thing is clear: even if they are expensive and not widely used – the tests could become important again in the fall.

“Making tests chargeable would mean that many people would not take this additional measure.”

Epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs on Minister of Health Lauterbach’s plans

When asked by Watson, he says: “Making tests chargeable would mean that many people would not take this additional measure.”

The free citizen tests were an important control and measurement tool. He means: “Even when monitoring infection dynamics, it will be important to keep the observation conditions the same.”

Ulrichs sees the comprehensive test strategy as unavoidable: “We had restricted free access to testing before, and the downsides were huge. We should continue this investment and still offer all tests free of charge .” Being tested should again be a prerequisite for access to events or indoor spaces, for example.

Currently, the mask can stay down in the catering trade - that could quickly be over again in the fall.

Currently, the mask can stay down in the catering trade – that could quickly be over again in the fall.Image: dpa / Matthias leg

Before the consultations with Lauterbach on Thursday, the representatives of the federal states also renewed their calls for a rapid revision of the Infection Protection Act in preparation for the fall. This must be done before the summer break so that one is well prepared for possible autumn scenarios.

NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) said: “The current development shows how quickly changes in the infection process can occur, and then we have to be able to act.” The tool box, including the obligation to wear masks indoors, upper limits for people at events, and 2G and 3G regulations, must be ready for use with a corresponding legal basis in the Infection Protection Act.

The Federal Ministry of Health is leaving for the coming fall, according to an internal paper that the picture published on Wednesday, from three possible scenarios:

  • The “best” scenario:
    A new virus variant spreads, but causes less severe courses than the omicron variant. Hard measures would not be necessary or only for risk groups.
  • The “moderate” scenario:
    Corona makes you just as sick as the Omikron variants BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.121. Many people become infected and work is lost. Although the intensive care units are not expected to be overloaded, “wide-scale measures” such as “masks and distance indoors” and contact restrictions at the local level are necessary.
  • The “terrible scenario”:
    A new, particularly contagious and dangerous variant is coming. Even those who have been vaccinated three times could “develop a severe course if risk factors are present”, intensive care and normal wards would be “heavily burdened”. Protective measures and distance rules would then apply again until spring 2023.

The second scenario is considered the most likely in the Federal Ministry of Health. “Without taking further measures, around 1,500 corona deaths per week would be assumed,” as the paper says.

The ideal scenario would probably be to prevent this number with a corresponding timetable for the coming Corona autumn.

(with material from dpa and afp)

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