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Delays expected: Capacity squeeze for corona testing in Germany

Delays expected : Capacity squeeze for corona testing in Germany

Experts have been criticizing the massive expansion of corona testing for some time. The capacities in Germany are reaching their limits. This also creates problems in determining possible chains of infection.

The huge increase in the number of corona tests in Germany is resulting in some capacity issues. In the week from August 10 to 16, the participating laboratories reported a backlog of 17,142 tests to be processed, according to the current "Epidemiological Bulletin" of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 41 laboratories had reported delivery problems for reagents.

The problems could lead to delays in identifying possible cases of COVID-19 - and consequently also in the implementation of protective measures by the public health authorities. "For this reason, it is necessary to prioritize the testing to get the information we need, depending on test capacities," said the RKI.

The number of tests carried out has recently increased dramatically, in part because of the obligation to test people returning from high-risk areas. According to RKI data, from July 27 to August 2, the number was still around 578,000, but two weeks later the figure had already risen to more than 875,000. In the week from April 20 to 26 the number of tests had still been around 364,000.

According to the RKI, consumable supplies and reagents are only stored for short periods of time in the laboratories, partly because of their limited shelf life. As well, some products are highly dependent on individual manufacturers. If the number of tests continues to rise and there are supply shortages due to increasing global demand, the testing capacities of the laboratories could be reduced in the coming weeks.

At the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM), the massive expansion of corona testing services was met with reservations and criticism early on. In view of limited capacities, the call was for targeted rather than random testing. First chairman Michael Müller said last week that this was not about fulfilling every politician's wish. In the end, at risk are the resources needed to care for the sick, those in clinics and nursing homes, and for determining chains of infection. The association explained that in medical settings, test results should be available in 24 to 48 hours, and that testing would be prioritized.

At present, 250 laboratories are registered to give RKI test results and supply the information mainly on a weekly basis. Since there may be late notifications for tests of the past weeks, the numbers determined may be subject to change.

Orig. text: dpa

Translation: ck