German health minister defends end of free Covid tests

German health minister defends end of free Covid tests

“Giving a fair deal to the taxpayer was the reason we abolished free rapid coronavirus testing,” Spahn told Funke Mediengruppe newspapers.

“Everyone for whom vaccines are recommended have now had the chance to get vaccinated,” he continued.

He stressed that tests in nursing homes, hospitals, schools or at work will always be free.

Testing at rapid test centers, thousands of which have flourished in German cities, will no longer be free.

READ MORE: Who will still be able to get a free test starting Monday?

Several doctors’ unions have criticized the decision, which will limit free tests to people for whom vaccines are not recommended, from Monday.

Ulrich Schneider, head of the Parity Welfare Association, told a local newspaper that “vaccine-rich skeptics, who can afford to pay for the tests, will be privileged by this decision.”

“Fees for rapid tests will result in fewer people with symptoms needing testing in the future. This will open the door to further transmission of the virus, ”said Susanne Johna, head of the Marburger Bund doctors’ union.

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4 billion euros in costs

The free rapid test (known as the Bürgertest / citizen test), which allowed unvaccinated people to enter restaurants, bars and other places, has cost the taxpayer nearly € 4 billion since its deployment in spring.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach said ending free testing is not just about cutting costs, but is also about motivating people to get vaccinated.

“Making the tests cost money will result in many more people being vaccinated because they will want to avoid regular testing,” Lauterbach said.

In August, Chancellor Angela Merkel and state health ministers announced that Schnelltests – or rapid Covid-19 antigen tests would cost a fee from Monday, October 11.

As of March of this year, rapid tests have been funded by taxpayers and are therefore free for anyone who wants them, including tourists and visitors to Germany.

Certain groups of people, such as children under 12 for whom there is no approved Covid vaccine, will still be entitled to free tests. People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will also continue to benefit from the cost of rapid tests supported by the government.

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