Laboratories in Germany overstretched as demand for PCR tests soars

Laboratories in Germany overstretched as demand for PCR tests soars

With the Omicron wave intensifying, and coronavirus cases in Germany rapidly rising, test centres and laboratories across the country are struggling to keep up. Approaching the limits of their capacity to process PCR tests, they are warning that Germany will soon face a shortage - and that the problem is only likely to get worse with the new quarantine rules

Centres in Germany struggling to process PCR tests

“The high numbers of infections go hand in hand with a lot of tests. Because there is currently hardly any priority for [processing] PCR tests, laboratories in Germany are increasingly reaching their capacity limits,” said the chairperson of the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine, Michael Müller, to the Rheinische Post, emphasising that this would have serious consequences for infected people and hospitals

“The fact that you can soon be freed from quarantine [with a test] will inevitably lead to additional work for the laboratories,” Müller added. He called on medical practices and test centres to stick to the national testing strategy if capacities are tight. 

The strategy stipulates that people with coronavirus symptoms have top priority, followed by asymptomatic close contacts, and then people in facilities where there has been a proven COVID case, including schools, childcare centres, emergency shelters and prisons. In some regions, critical workers have been added to this list. 

Echoing the warning about shortages, Susanne Johna, chairperson of Germany’s largest medical association, the Marburger Bund, said that the new quarantine rules could be adapted to lessen demand for PCR tests. “Two antigen tests in a row could be sufficient to release oneself [from quarantine],” she suggested to RND. 

People testing out of quarantine may experience delays

However, the head of the German government’s coronavirus crisis team, Carsten Breuer, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that this was not the right moment to reduce testing: “We need the most accurate data possible to see how the wave affects us,” he said. 

He advocated implementing testing priority, should capacity become stretched, and so warned that some people might experience delays with getting their results while “employees in critical infrastructure get priority.” 

This approach was supported by the health policy spokesperson for the Greens, Janosch Dahmen, who called for capacities to be used wisely, according to importance - with priority given to sick people and key workers. “That can mean that in individual cases, for example when testing out of quarantine, there may be delays,” he said. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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