Corona test adjustment before the end: how the test centers will continue

Pandemic measures
From July 1, corona tests will be paid again. Test centers are arguing whether the business is still profitable

People are lining up outside the Crown Test Center

© Ina Fassbender / AFP

The test regulation will expire at the end of June. For citizens, this means re-performing the paid corona tests. And this is a problem for test center operators: anyone who opens their store does so primarily in advance – but they must be able to afford it.

It’s summer and corona measurements are more relaxed than in the past two years. Masks are hardly needed anymore and more and more people are reuniting to celebrate. It almost looks like a return to normal pre-pandemic life. But caution is advised. In countries such as Portugal and Austria, the incidence is increasing sharply again thanks to the new strain of the BA5 virus. There is a similar threat in Germany – even if politicians do not expect another wave until autumn.

You want to be prepared for it – but before that, you save for further effective measures in the fight against the pandemic. The current test strategy expires at the end of June. This means that the federal government no longer pays for free citizenship tests. This raises the question for many test site operators whether they should continue to offer citizen testing and PCR over the summer, or whether they should close for now. “People are used to not having to pay for the tests themselves,” says Marcus Reisiger star. He runs a private test center in a shopping center in Hamburg, and is concerned that fewer people will be tested if they have to bear the costs themselves.

At the same time, the demand has been falling for weeks, as shown by the current data of the Robert Koch Institute. The institute recorded the last high in the last week of March. At that time, more than two million people in Germany were still being tested. A month later, it was just over a million tests a week. And at the end of May, that number had even dropped by more than half to 496,484. The reason: more and more corona measurements are no longer taken, tests, for example for travel, are rarely mandatory. This is one of the reasons Reisiger planned to close its center after June 30. In the last week alone, 20 people a day were tested at his test center. Financing the premises, materials and staff for four months with such low demand is not very profitable.

“Testing capabilities are extremely important”

Inés Faghihi, head of the Corona Test Center at the University of Bremen, also addresses the same questions. Unlike her friend from Hamburg, the need here is even greater. According to the information, between 300 and 400 rapid tests are carried out daily at the test center in Bremen. The operators decided to leave the test center open during the summer.

The reason is simple: when the testing ordinance expired last year, operators had to decide “whether we were closing or remaining open with the minimum bandwidth,” says Faghihi dem star. Although demand fell sharply and customers had to pay for the tests themselves, it was possible to operate economically. When the test regulations were reintroduced due to the increasing frequency, the number of daily tests increased from 100 to 1000 in a very short time. “This showed us that there is definitely a need for testing and the testing capabilities are extremely important. The fact that we were still open-minded and only needed to increase resources was a clear advantage, ”says Faghihi.

It takes time to restart a closed test center. And it is not as simple as politicians think. According to the center’s operators, it can take three to four weeks just to recruit new hires, train them, find the right premises, and stock up on materials – if all goes well. “You can’t get a test center up and running in a week,” concludes Reisiger. Even finding the right room is complicated. “You have to present the concept of entrances, maximum number of people, CO2 content and ventilation,” he says.

A restaurant instead of a Corona test center?

The operators in Bremen were only able to respond to the sudden demand last fall, as the infrastructure and some experienced staff were still available. “It would be impossible for us to run 1,000 tests without trained and, above all, well-trained personnel and transparent processes,” says Faghihi. Therefore, further tests are carried out at the University of Bremen.

But you are also prepared for a possible end: anyone who has been tested can write on a piece of paper at the exit what should happen to the premises if the examination center no longer exists. “Preliminary evaluation has shown that customers want eateries in the first place,” said Faghihi. Pharmacies and drugstores are also among the candidates. “We try to be prepared for every eventuality. If the testing ordinance expires and the demand for tests suddenly disappears, we can start another project right away.”

However, there is still no end to the “Test Center” project. According to the RKI, the incidence is also increasing in Germany due to a new variant of the omicron. “The continued strong increase in BA.4 and BA.5 suggests that within a few weeks these variants will account for the majority of detections using genome sequencing in a sample,” the institute’s report reads. to the Association of Accredited Laubore, the BA5 variant already accounts for 40 to 50 percent of all corona infections.

The test recipe can finally be extended

So Reisiger wonders if he really should shut down his test center for the summer. The rate of positive quick tests has recently increased from less than five percent to ten percent. Therefore, the number of daily PCR tests has increased from 20 to 50. It is important that the test centers remain open in order to be able to further monitor the infection process. She fears that if the examination centers are closed, the true state of the infection will not become apparent until very late admissions to the hospital. “We will be very late because test centers do not report RKI or only report a few positive PCR tests.” Faghihi also does not think it makes sense to abolish the test regulation. However, both assume it will be extended beyond June 30.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the same when asked star. “The decision to further extend the Testing Regulation and the right to citizenship testing and SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus containment tests is being voted on in the federal government,” reads the written response.

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