COVID Demand for free COVID testing almost doubled at end of November

Düsseldorf · Unvaccinated individuals are increasingly required to have up-to-date proof that they have tested negative. A test may also be important even for people who have been vaccinated or have recovered. This has consequences for demand. Patient advocacy groups believe that testing will play a bigger role.

 A woman fills out a form for a COVID-19 test outside a pharmacy.

A woman fills out a form for a COVID-19 test outside a pharmacy.

Foto: dpa/Oliver Berg

Demand for free COVID tests (so-called Bürgertests) nearly doubled in North Rhine-Westphalia at the end of November. But the number of tests does not appear to have peaked in Germany's most populous state despite the extensive 3G requirements (vaccinated, recovered, tested), which have been in force nationwide at the workplace and for bus and train journeys since 24 November. The reason could be that the statistics on testing do not include figures from all locations where testing is undertaken.

According to data from the NRW Ministry of Health, the number of free COVID tests shot from 305,455 on November 22 to 586,058 on November 30. That's an increase of some 92 percent. The ministry stresses non-immunized workers can prove 3G not only with a Bürgertest but also with in-company testing. This employee testing is not included in the figures, a spokesperson said.

According to the ministry, the increased demand for rapid tests is not only a result of introduction of the 3G rule in the workplace on November 24. Because the country's Corona protection amendment was also changed at that time, individuals also needed 3G proof at, for example, a civil wedding ceremony or a funeral. The state also kept the 3G rule in place for hairdressers.

In-company testing has continued to be well accepted according to Thomas Meier, the regional chair Nordrhein-Nord of the federation of German company physicians. Many companies had quickly set up such offers for their employees. In order to get things moving quickly, individual companies even had their initial testing stations in the underground car park. The association does not have any information on the total number of employee tests, Meier says, but he thinks that the reported number of tests could a third higher.

When the new restrictions were introduced on 23 Novembert, NRW’s Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) said he could envision a nationwide record of about one million Bürgertests a day. He pointed out that at that time, about one million workers in NRW had not yet been vaccinated against COVID. However, he said it was unclear how high the proportion of people working from home was. At the time, he cited 850,000 Bürgertests on one day as the previous high. In the period before the tightening of regulations, between 250,000 and 332,000 people had been tested per day, he said.

In the fight against the Corona virus pandemic, the German Patient Protection Foundation believes that testing must become a stronger focus of protective measures. "I have the feeling that this is a blinker policy: there is only 2G and we fade out everything else," is how board member Eugen Brysch criticised federal and state government decisions. He said that regulatory agencies are not in a position to control the 2G rules - access only for vaccinated and recovered people - across the board. "Without control, it doesn't make sense." There is also the problem of falsified vaccination cards and copied vaccination records.

Brysch advocated additional testing for the vaccinated and recovered as well. "2G plus is the concept that will get us not only through the winter, but also through 2022," he said, adding that so far there has been no concept and no roadmap on how to organize 140 million vaccinations in Germany and a possible mandatory vaccination next year. He appealed to the pharmaceutical industry to provide an "update" on the COVID-19 vaccines and on the new virus variants.

If the vaccination campaign is not quickly reorganized with large vaccination centres that are open seven days a week for up to 16 hours a day, primary health care could suffer severely, he said. "We're putting our money on the vaccination card, everybody's doing it: pharmacists, dentists, physicians in private practice," he said. But even doctors and pharmacists can only work a certain number of hours each day, he said. At the same time, the health care system is already "stretched to its limit”

Original text: dpa

Translation: Jean Lennox

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