Testing for Corona free of charge is now a thing of the past after more than a year. From this Thursday on, only certain groups will be able to take rapid tests at test stations or pharmacies at the expense of the state and thus the taxpayer. Others will have to pay an additional three euros.
The test market will now reorient itself, according to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). "There will perhaps be one or two providers who will then no longer offer the tests, but there will also be many who will use it immediately and then come to terms with these rules," he said in Berlin on Wednesday.
What changes fundamentally in the Corona tests?
Until now, everyone - even without Corona symptoms or a concrete reason - was entitled to at least one free rapid test per week by trained personnel, including a test decision, which usually comes directly to the smartphone and can be used as proof.
The free offer will now be "suspended," with exceptions, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. The revised test regulation with the new rules has been in the Federal Gazette since Wednesday and thus takes effect from this Thursday.
Who will continue to get a free Corona test?
People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. That includes women in the first trimester of pregnancy, for example. Household members of infected people, family caregivers, people with disabilities and their caregivers, children up to five years of age, residents and visitors of nursing homes, clinics or facilities for people with disabilities should continue to be able to get tested free of charge. The same applies to people who need proof that they are negative again after a Corona infection, so that they can return to work, for example.
And who has to pay an extra three euros?
The three-euro tests are intended for private use, for visits to family parties, concerts or another "indoor event" on the same day. This is to help prevent so-called super-spreader events, where many people catch the disease at once. A three-euro test should also be given to anyone who has a red Corona warnapp or who plans to meet other people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions or disabilities.
Anyone could say, "I want to visit my sick grandmother. How is this to be controlled?
It is said that such visits must be made "credible". In the case of the three-euro test, for example, it must always be signed that the test is being taken because of a planned concert visit, a family celebration or a visit to a previously ill relative. Whether this sufficiently deters potential fraudsters remains to be seen. A concert ticket can also be shown as proof. In the case of a visit to relatives or a family celebration, it is naturally difficult to provide proof.
What proof is still required?
As before, an "official photo ID" must be presented. However, many children up to the age of five - for whom free tests will continue to be available - do not yet have an ID card or child passport, criticizes the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. In practice, it should work out as recommended by the Ministry of Health: For children without an ID card, it is sufficient for the legal guardians to present their ID card. Pregnant women can use their maternity passport as proof for a free test. Household members of infected persons show their test results.
Where are there still unanswered questions?
There was some confusion on the point of visits to the elderly or previously ill. It is true that people who visit relatives or acquaintances in clinics or nursing homes can still be tested free of charge. However, the regulation also states that those who want to meet with over-60s or those with previous illnesses will have to pay an additional three euros for a test.
Here, a dividing line is drawn between private meetings and encounters in facilities. It makes a difference whether you walk into a clinic or nursing facility possibly infected or meet someone at home, a spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Health explained when asked.
Why is the testing offer being restricted in the first place?
Because it was getting too expensive. According to Lauterbach, the free tests had last gobbled up a billion euros a month. They have been available - with a brief interruption last fall - since the spring of 2021. "Not everything can be paid for by the federal government in the long term, because our possibilities have reached their limits," Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) had said, explaining the move. According to Lauterbach, the new concept still envisages costs of 2.7 billion euros by the end of the year. If the current practice were maintained, it would be 5 billion.
Will the states take over the three-euro share?
Lauterbach had referred to the possibility that the federal states could take over the three euros for citizens. However, the states had quickly signaled that there were no plans to do so. The three euros do not replace "and in any of the states," said Baden-Württemberg's Health Minister Manne Lucha (Greens) on Tuesday.
Image by Michael Kretzschmar