ARCHIV - 25.11.2020, Baden-Württemberg, Nürtingen: Ein Mitarbeiter zeigt in der Corona-Abstrichstelle auf dem Festplatz einen Abstrich für einen Corona-Test. Corona-Bürgertests für alle sollen künftig drei Euro kosten Foto: Tom Weller/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Just test for Corona for free – after more than a year, that’s over for the time being. As of this Thursday, rapid tests for state and thus taxpayer costs at test stations or in pharmacies will only be available for certain groups. Others have to pay three euros from now on.

According to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), the test market will now be reoriented. “There may be one or the other provider who will then no longer offer the tests, but there will also be many who will use it immediately and then get along with these rules,” he said on Wednesday in Berlin.

So far, everyone – even without corona symptoms or a specific reason – was entitled to at least one free quick test per week by trained staff including a test notification, which usually comes directly to the smartphone and can be used as proof.

The free offer is now, with a few exceptions, “suspended”, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. The revised test regulation with the new rules has been in the Federal Gazette since Wednesday and will take effect from this Thursday.

People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. These are, for example, women in the first trimester of pregnancy. Household members of infected people, caring relatives, people with disabilities and their carers, 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 be tested free of charge. This also applies to people who, after a corona infection, need proof that they are negative again so that they can go back to work, for example.

The three-euro tests are intended for the private sector, for visits to family celebrations, concerts or another “event in an indoor space” on the same day. This should help to prevent so-called super spreader events, in which many people become infected at once. Anyone who has a red Corona warning app or who plans to meet other people over 60 or with previous illnesses or disabilities should also get a three-euro test.

It is said that such visits must be made “credible”. With the three-euro test, for example, you always have to sign that the test is being taken because of a planned visit to a concert, a family celebration or a visit to a relative who is already ill. It remains to be seen whether this will deter potential scammers sufficiently. A concert ticket can also be shown as proof. When visiting relatives or family celebrations, it is naturally difficult to provide receipts.

As before, an “official photo ID” must be presented. But many children up to five – for whom there are still free tests – do not have an ID card or children’s passport, criticizes the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. In practice, it should work as recommended by the Ministry of Health: For children without ID, it is sufficient if the legal guardians present their ID. Pregnant women can use the maternity pass as proof of a free test. Household members of infected people show their test results.

There was some confusion when it came to visits to the elderly or those with previous illnesses. 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 people over the age of 60 or those who have previous illnesses must pay an additional three euros for a test.

Here a dividing line is drawn between private meetings and encounters in institutions. When asked, a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Health explained that it makes a difference whether you walk into a clinic or nursing facility who is possibly infected or meet someone at home.

Because it got too expensive. According to Lauterbach, the free tests had recently devoured one billion euros per month. They have existed – with a brief interruption last autumn – since spring 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) justified the step. 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 to continue, it would be 5 billion.