Germany to scrap €3 Covid tests

From Saturday, the German government will no longer finance €3 Covid tests. In certain cases, however, free tests will continue to be available.

An employee in a Covid testing center poses with a test stick for Covid rapid testing.
An employee in a Covid testing center poses with a test stick for Covid rapid testing. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

In Germany, the 7-day Covid incidence – the number of new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days – has been falling steadily for weeks. As of Tuesday, the 7-day incidence was 183.2, compared to 227.4 a week ago and 566.5 a month ago.

Accordingly, a new draft testing regulation, which will apply from Saturday, means that Covid tests for €3 will be dropped, while in certain cases, free tests will continue to be available until the end of February.

READ ALSO: What should I do if I get Covid in Germany?

Until now, people who were attending an event or visiting an elderly relative or had a red Corona warning app could get an official test for €3.

As well as declining infection rates, the Federal Ministry of Health has said that the reason for dropping the €3 tests is also due to a lack of people taking up the offer. Overall, federal spending is expected to fall, in part by reducing the payment to testing centres. 

Free Covid testing until the end of February

Free rapid antigen tests will continue to be available in certain cases – including for those visiting old people’s and nursing homes and for those who have to go into hospital.

The same applies to people with disabilities and their caregivers and the test will also remain free for those wanting to leave isolation after being infected with Covid. 

READ ALSO: German doctors say Covid testing is too ‘expensive and bureaucratic’

The vaccination requirement for staff in hospitals and nursing homes is also set to expire at the end of the year.

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Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Germany will end the requirement to wear face masks on long-distance trains and buses from February 2nd as the coronavirus pandemic loosened its grip on the country, authorities announced on Friday.

Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made the announcement after consultations with ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states, saying “the infection situation has stabilised.”

Lauterbach, however, encouraged people to continue wearing masks voluntarily “on the basis of personal responsibility”, adding “the virus should not be trivialised” and warning of potential longer-term impacts.

Several factors contributed to the policy change, Lauterbach said, including a higher level of immunity in the public and a reduced chance of new mutations, which meant a winter resurgence of the virus was unlikely.

The situation is “tense but manageable” in hospitals, Lauterbach added.

The requirement, which has been in place since the early stages of the pandemic, had been scheduled to expire on April 7nd but will now end sooner.

A number of German states – including Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein – have already relaxed mask rules in regional public transport, while several others are set to do so at the start of February. 

READ ALSO: Several German states to drop Covid masks on public transport in February

However, rules on the country’s long-distance train and bus network remain the central government’s responsibility.

Germany was one of the few remaining countries in Europe to keep a mask requirement, with many having scrapped rules or downgraded them to recommendations in 2022.

Alongside Germany, Spain is the only other large European country to maintain mask rules on long-distance trains and public transport, with the Spanish government announcing in October that these will remain in place until at least March 2023.

Free “test-to-release” tests to end 

In another key move away from pandemic measures, the government has also announced that people will have to pay for their Covid tests in order to end self-isolation from January 16th.

Medical staff who need to test before returning to work and visitors to clinics and care homes will still receive their tests free of charge until February 28th. 

Self-isolation rules vary from state to state, but some require a negative test if people want to stop isolating after five days instead of the full ten.

These are currently funded by the government, but funding is due to end on January 15th. 

The news comes after a group of five states announced that they would be ending mandatory self-isolation for people infected with Covid.

Instead, people will be required to wear masks while out and about and observe social distancing rules. 

READ ALSO: Four German states poised to end mandatory Covid isolation