Germany scraps free rapid COVID tests for all: What you need to know
Rapid coronavirus tests are no longer freely available to all in Germany, after new rules came into force on Monday, October 11. Here’s an overview of what’s changing with Germany’s testing strategy.
As of October 11: Germany’s new COVID testing strategy
Back in August, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states announced that they would scrap the offer of free rapid COVID tests nationwide from October 11. Since March 2021, the state has been covering the cost of weekly rapid tests for anyone who wants them, including tourists and visitors to Germany - under a scheme known as the Bürgertest (citizens’ test).
Now, however, most people will be asked to cover the cost of their own tests. The federal and state governments decided this on the basis that vaccinations are now possible - free of charge - for most people, and taxpayers can therefore no longer be asked to cover the cost of rapid tests.
It is also hoped that, with 3G rules in place across Germany, stipulating that people need to be vaccinated, recovered or tested to access certain public spaces, the rule change will encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Is anyone still entitled to free rapid COVID tests?
The offer of a free test will remain in place for those for whom a vaccination recommendation does not currently exist - that is, children under the age of 12 (or those who have turned 12 in the last three months), women in the first trimester of pregnancy, and people who cannot get vaccinated because of a medical condition.
Tests will also remain free for other situations, for instance if a person needs a test to end their quarantine period after becoming infected with coronavirus.
Transitional rules are also in place for those who have only recently been given a vaccine recommendation, to give them more time to get the jab. Women in their second or third trimester of pregnancy, students from abroad who have been inoculated with a vaccine not yet approved in Germany, and children aged 12 to 17 will be entitled to one free test per week until December 31, 2021. Women who are breastfeeding have until December 10.
What about PCR tests?
Crucially, the change in the testing rules does not affect PCR tests initiated by doctors or the health department. In these cases, according to information provided by the federal government, costs will continue to be covered. A doctor might order a PCR test if, for instance, you are displaying symptoms of coronavirus, or you get a positive lateral flow result.
What do I need to receive a free test?
From now on, anyone wishing to receive a free test will need to present an official photo ID at their local test centre. Children will also need to show proof of age - for instance with a passport or a birth certificate.
If you are still entitled to free tests due to medical reasons, you will need to provide extra evidence, for example a medical certificate or a note from your doctor. This does not need to state what your condition is, just that you are unable to get vaccinated. It should also contain your name, address and date of birth, as well as the details of the issuer.
If you are pregnant, you can present your maternity card.
How much will rapid coronavirus tests now cost?
The pricing of COVID tests is being left up to the providers. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, there is no set limit on how much a coronavirus test should cost after October 11. With so many companies offering testing, it is hoped that the price will be kept down by competition.
At the moment, rapid tests currently cost between 19 and 30 euros, while PCR tests are more expensive.
What about free tests at work?
If you do not work from home, your company is still obliged to offer you a free COVID-19 test at least twice a week.
What do I do if my rapid test is positive?
If you receive a positive result on a rapid flow test, you have to get a PCR test - which you will not have to pay for. If you had your rapid flow test at a test centre, it is often possible to get a sample for a PCR test immediately after your positive rapid flow test.