Berlin. The corona test strategy is set to be fundamentally adjusted. From autumn, free citizenship tests for SARS-CoV-2 should be available only to people with symptoms of the disease and selected groups of people, such as employees of retirement homes and clinics, pregnant women and young children.
Despite the limitations, it aims to maintain an easily accessible research infrastructure, including in pharmacies. At the same time, prices for rapid antigen tests and PCR tests are to be lowered; the total costs for this could be cut by about half.
New test regulation “soon”
This is due to the “Corona Autumn Strategy” of the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG). The federal government’s current testing strategy continues to provide for free testing until the end of June. The BMG announced that it intends to amend the regulation soon.
At the conference of health ministers on Wednesday and Thursday, no final concept was presented. The relevant package must be finalized with Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), said federal health minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD).
He also referred to the requirement of the Bundestag’s budget committee that the Länder should participate in the financing of the examinations, which so far has only been borne by the federal government. The head of state departments, Petra Grimm-Benne (SPD) of Saxony-Anhalt, said the states did not see any leeway in this.
In its strategy paper, the ministry envisages a “moderate scenario” for the course of infection in the fall: the disease burden from SARS-CoV-2 remains similar to omicron BA.4, BA.5 and BA 2.12.1. In colder seasons, there is a likelihood of increased infections and absences from work.
Stricter rules may become necessary again
Despite the moderate burden of COVID-19 in intensive care, absences from work may again require national measures such as mandatory masks and indoor distance rules, but also specifications for limiting contact according to the regional situation. If no further measures are taken, approximately 1,500 kronor deaths per week can be assumed in the fall and winter.
The main challenge remains not to overload available intensive care capacities and to maintain critical infrastructure in terms of staff. In addition to the new test strategy, further preparations are therefore needed for the fall.
According to BMG, this also includes the purchase of an appropriate number of adapted COVID vaccines from the producers Moderna and BioNTech. Additionally, an autumn vaccination campaign is planned from September. The aim must be to close the vaccination gap in the population and to advertise a fourth vaccination. The latter applies in particular to the elderly.
In addition, the treatment of COVID patients is to be “optimized”. According to the BMG article, drugs like Paxlovid are currently used too late or too rarely. Therefore, the Corona Board of Experts should develop an appropriate treatment concept.
The aim is also to prevent the recurrence of serious outbreaks of infection in the homes of the elderly. In order to protect the inhabitants, it is therefore necessary to develop a “comprehensive concept for supply and hygiene” in the fall. To this end, each care facility should – similarly to regulations in hospitals – appoint a hygiene worker required by law and appoint a nursing specialist for early pharmacological treatment of infected people who require care. The overriding goal is to keep the facilities open to visitors.
Data from clinics on the same day
There are also plans to oblige hospitals to report data needed to manage a pandemic through DEMIS on the same day. Then, data on ITS capacity, the number of coron patients in normal and ITS departments, and the number of beds that can be operated on in normal and ITS departments should be provided.
DEMIS should be linked to national health authorities and the Robert Koch Institute. Regarding nurseries and schools, the BMG article states that settings must remain open even if the incidence increases. Recommendations on this matter should be made by the health and education ministers of the federal states and the federal government. In addition, children and adolescents should be given special attention as part of the vaccination campaign (dom / af / dpa)