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Test centers: How often may citizens go and get a free Corona rapid test?

Test centers : How often may citizens go and get a free Corona rapid test?

Free rapid tests are one strategy for dealing with the Corona pandemic. But how many times a week are people allowed to get tested free of charge? The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has a clear answer.

People in North Rhine-Westphalia are entitled to free Corona rapid tests. The state's Corona Structural Ordinance states that rapid tests "can be claimed at least once a week." Does this mean that citizens are also allowed to be tested free of charge several times a week? The state answers the question succinctly and unequivocally. "Yes, they are allowed to do so," the NRW Ministry of Health informs us in response to a query. The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV) North Rhine also explains that there is no "upper limit" in the test regulation. "Insofar as someone wants to be tested, there is basically no obligation on the part of the test centers to check how often the patient has already been tested in the week," says a spokesperson.

That's how it is at the rapid testing centers in the region that Sandro Heinemann operates. The Bonn-based concert promoter has sought a new line of business in the pandemic. He now operates dozens of Corona test centers throughout Germany, including four in Bonn and six in the Rhein-Sieg district. "There is no check to see if someone has been there before," Heinemann says. Asked if people can come to the centers several times a week, he replies, "It's possible."

Mashal Wahid of the Medicare Testing Center Bonn & Rhein-Sieg says something similar. Wahid now operates five sites in the Rhein-Sieg district and two in Bonn. "We no longer ask if someone has been there already," he says, adding, "Those who want to be tested will be tested." Wahid even advocates getting tested more often than once a week. "It's an effective tool," he says.

The NRW Ministry of Health has a similar view. "In principle, a test that makes sense depending on the situation is always desirable from an infectious point of view," it says when asked. At the same time, the ministry appeals for a responsible approach to testing. "We assume that citizens will use the testing options sensibly and use them responsibly," it says. The KV also appeals for a sense of responsibility not to exploit the system. However, the KV does not currently have any indications of possible misuse of the test offers.

The test centers invoice the rapid tests to the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians. "No personal data is transmitted," Heinemann emphasizes. The data would have to be stored, however, "should the KV ever want to check it." In this context, the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians refers to the documentation and storage periods anchored in the test ordinance. These oblige the test centers to "retain the documentation of the tests performed until the end of 2024 - also in the possible event of a subsequent audit," it says.

(Original text: Alexander Hertel; Translation: Mareike Graepel)