Demand for antigen tests doubled Rapid tests scarce in NRW

Düsseldorf · In North Rhine-Westphalia, the demand for Corona rapid tests has almost doubled recently. However, there seems to be no end in sight to the supply bottlenecks.

 Corona rapid tests are becoming scarce in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Corona rapid tests are becoming scarce in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Foto: dpa/Philippe Francois

In view of the rising number of infections and stricter regulations, the demand for Corona tests is increasing strongly in North Rhine-Westphalia. But the supply cannot keep up. And so rapid tests are always sold out quickly. The purchase prices are rising: In some pharmacies, a pack of five now costs 36 Euro, and at some discounters, a single test costs almost three Euro.

Even agencies that conduct free citizenship tests have to fight for supplies. "Corona tests are often in short supply. An end to the supply bottlenecks is not yet in sight," said Thomas Preis, head of the North Rhine Pharmacists' Association. When asked whether there would be enough rapid tests for the Christmas season, the NRW Ministry of Health did not want to comment. According to the ministry, the number of free citizens' tests carried out has almost doubled within one week from 305,000 to 586,000. A factor here is that the 3G regulation has recently come into effect at workplaces and other institutions, so that unvaccinated people have to get tested regularly.

Since November 13, the tests have been free of charge again. "Currently, the numbers in the testing centres are increasing by ten percent every week. December will be the month with the most citizen tests," said Preis. "Sales of self-tests also continue to increase." The need for safety is very high, he said, with many taking a quick test when they have cold symptoms or before visiting grandparents to check if they are infected. The number of citizen test centres in NRW has increased to 4,115, according to the Ministry of Health. That is 720 more centres than at the beginning of November.

At the same time, there are supply problems: "The supply is faltering because the dealers' warehouses were not prepared for the sudden increase in demand after the summer slump," explains Preis. The vast majority of tests are produced in the Far East. "The freight options are limited and expensive. And once the goods are in Germany, it currently takes a very long time for customs to release them.“

The tense situation could soon become a major problem for NRW schools as well. At the end of the year, the contract with the supplier Siemens Healthineers expires. But so far the school ministry has not been able to find a new supplier for rapid tests. "A corresponding contract award is about to be concluded," says the school ministry. The pupil tests are on a large scale: Most recently, 2.6 million tests were conducted at schools in NRW in one week. 4,563 gave a positive result, i.e. a suspicion of infection.

The traffic light parties SPD, Greens and FDP, want to introduce compulsory Corona vaccination for staff in institutions for particularly vulnerable persons as of March 16. This is according to a draft amendment to the Infection Protection Act, available to the news agency Reuters, which is to be debated in the Bundestag next week. Staff already employed must submit proof by March 15.

"New employment relationships can only be entered into from March 16, 2022 onwards on presentation of appropriate proof," it continues. The regulation is to apply to staff in nursing and old people's homes, hospitals and maternity facilities, medical and dental practices, as well as emergency services and day clinics. (Original text: Antje Höning and Maximilian Plück / Translation: Mareike Graepel)

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