Germany to end free Covid-19 tests for citizens in October
Germany is ending free coronavirus tests for its citizens from October, in part to encourage people to get vaccinated, government officials said Tuesday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country had sufficient vaccines for its population - more than half is already fully immunized — and that studies showed they are effective in preventing severe cases of Covid-19, including ones caused by highly contagious virus variants.
“The not-so-good news is that the speed of vaccination has declined significantly,” Merkel said after a Tuesday meeting with the country’s 16 state governors.
While federal and state officials agreed that people who are fully vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 or have recently tested negative should continue to be treated equally in most situations, they also decided that German citizens will have to start paying for their own tests starting Oct. 11.
Some German politicians had criticized the proposal, arguing that it amounts to a tax on the poor. Others claimed that ending free testing is a way of punishing individuals who refuse to get vaccinated.
After a sluggish start and only really gaining from March onward, Germany's vaccination campaign has lost speed in recent weeks. Officials worry the country may not reach the target set by the federal disease control agency of immunizing at least 85% of people between ages 12 and 59 and 90% of those over 60.
In response to the drop in demand, officials have begun pushing for more vaccinations at megastores and in city centers, or offering incentives to get people to show up to get shots.
Bavaria's state governor, Markus Soeder, said it would not be fair to those who are vaccinated if they have to keep paying for others' free tests.
Soeder added that in his opinion, vaccinated individuals should not be subject to another lockdown if the infection rate rises in the fall.
While Germany has a relatively low number of confirmed virus cases compared to other European countries, cases are rising again. Authorities fear unvaccinated Germans, especially young people, may contract and spread the virus in the coming weeks and months.
On Monday, the country's disease control agency registered 2,480 new cases, about 700 more than a week earlier. Some 45.6 million people in Germany, or almost 55% of the population, are fully vaccinated.