There should no longer be free corona tests for all citizens in the future. “Citizen tests should be used in a targeted manner where they bring the greatest benefit,” said Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) at a press conference on Friday.
Citizens should still be able to be tested before going to a concert, a larger family celebration, visiting the elderly or if the Corona warning app indicates an increased risk. However, according to Lauterbach, they then have to pay three euros per quick test. The federal government will cover the rest of the costs.
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According to Lauterbach, the tests will only be free from July for vulnerable groups, including children up to five years of age, women at the beginning of pregnancy and visitors to clinics and nursing homes. That saves billions. More was not possible in the tense budget situation. He would have liked to continue free citizen tests for everyone, said the SPD politician.
The new concept now envisages expenditures of 2.7 billion euros by the end of the year – if fully taken over, up to five billion euros would have been expected.
The number of corona infections is currently rising sharply again. The virologist Christian Drosten expects a very high number of new corona cases after the summer holidays in Germany. “I hope that the school holidays will slow down the increase in the number of cases. But from September, I’m afraid we will have very high case numbers,” said the head of the virology department at the Berlin Charité in an interview with the “Spiegel”. If nothing is done, there will be “a great many absences due to illness” in working life.
“We are actually seeing an exponential increase in the number of cases again,” warned Drosten. “The BA.5 variant is simply very transmissible, and at the same time people lose their transmission protection from the last vaccination.” In other countries, one can see that with very high case numbers, the number of hospitalizations and deaths also rose again. “Unfortunately, that will be the case for us too. Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”
On Friday morning, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) gave the nationwide seven-day incidence as 618.2. The day before, the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week was 532.9. The health authorities in Germany recently reported 108,190 new corona infections and 90 deaths within one day to the RKI.
However, the incidence does not provide a complete picture of the infection situation. Experts have been assuming for some time that there will be a large number of cases not recorded by the RKI – mainly because by far not all infected people have a PCR test done. Only positive PCR tests count in the statistics. In addition, late registrations or transmission problems can lead to a distortion of individual daily values.
There will be a new vaccination campaign in the fall. According to Lauterbach, it is already in exchange with the vaccine manufacturers.
According to Lauterbach, a successful vaccination campaign before winter would have to reach up to 40 million people. “Ideal would be a vaccination campaign with up to 40 million vaccinated people before winter,” Lauterbach wrote on Twitter on Friday night, echoing statements by virologist Christian Drosten. Lauterbach added: “In winter we have to be very well prepared, otherwise there will be chaos.”
Drosten had told the “Spiegel”: “We should be able to immunize up to 40 million people again before winter or provide them with a booster vaccination,” said Drosten. “It would really make a difference.”
It is important that the funds available to date are used in the fight against the corona pandemic, emphasized Drosten. Old people should be vaccinated four times. “We should also make full use of the framework that exists in Germany for child vaccinations, which is far from being the case. All others should be at least three times and, if desired, four times vaccinated.”
Virologist Drosten does not believe that by the end of the year one will have the impression that the pandemic is over, said the corona expert. In January, Drosten had expressed the hope that Germany could declare the pandemic over in the course of the year.
Drosten recommended avoiding infection as much as possible – also because of the risk of Long Covid. “Unfortunately, an infection is inevitable in the long term. And little by little, mucosal-specific protection is actually forming, which I assume makes the overall population immunity more resilient.”
On the other hand, the virus is also evolving. Drosten: “I assume that at some point a new balance will settle in: the population’s immunity from vaccinations and infections will eventually be so strong that the virus will become less important.