Covid-19: Germany ends free tests to encourage vaccination

While the pace of vaccination has slowed down significantly in recent weeks, the German government and the regions have decided to end free Covid-19 screening tests on Tuesday from October 11.

Germany will end free Covid-19 screening tests from October in the hope of relaunching a vaccination campaign that is slipping.

From that date, people who do not want to be vaccinated will have to pay for a test proving that they are negative for Covid-19 in order to be able to go to the cinema, to the restaurant or to the gym. Proof of vaccination or a negative test will also be required as soon as the infection threshold reaches 35 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days.

The free tests will however remain in force for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, for pregnant women or children, according to the text adopted Tuesday August 10 during the meeting between Angela Merkel and the sixteen heads of regional governments. .

“Responsibility of all”

As Germany now has sufficient doses of vaccines for all citizens, “we will put an end to free tests from October 11,” said the Chancellor. And she said she hoped that “vaccination rates will rise again sharply”, deeming it “everyone’s responsibility” to encourage vaccination.

After vaccinating more than a million people a day at the height of the campaign, the pace has drastically slowed down in Europe’s largest economy during the summer holidays.

Some 52 million people have received at least one dose in the country, or 62.5% of the population, according to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute for Public Health Surveillance.

Debate to convince those reluctant to vaccines

For several weeks, the debate has swelled in the country on how to convince the reluctant without making vaccination mandatory, while infections and fears of a fourth wave of the pandemic are increasing.

Angela Merkel has more than once reaffirmed her opposition to an obligation to be vaccinated general or partial, as in France or Greece for nursing staff in particular.

But the idea of ​​paid tests has been criticized, especially by the far right, as an indirect way of forcing reluctant people to get vaccinated to avoid being restricted in their freedom of movement.

Angela Merkel replied on Tuesday that immunized people could not be asked to continue to be restricted because part of the population refuses the vaccine. “We must also think of those who work in the hospital and it is excluded to overload the health system”, she insisted.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany now has enough vaccines for its whole population — more than half is already fully immunized — and that studies showed they are effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, including from infections with the delta variant.

“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.

After a sluggish start and only really gaining speed from March onward, Germany’s vaccination campaign has lost speed in recent weeks. 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 get shots.

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany now has enough vaccines for its whole population — more than half is already fully immunized — and that studies showed they are effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, including from infections with the delta variant.

“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.

After a sluggish start and only really gaining speed from March onward, Germany’s vaccination campaign has lost speed in recent weeks. 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 get shots.

Merkel said the government hopes 75% of the population will get the shot, but so far only slightly over 55% are fully immunized. She urged Germans who are already vaccinated to encourage others to do so too.

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 antigen tests will stop being free for most people from Oct. 11. Exemptions will be made for those who can’t currently be vaccinated in Germany, such as pregnant women.

Some German politicians had criticized the plan, arguing that it amounts to a tax on the poor. Others say ending free testing is a way of punishing individuals who refuse to get vaccinated.

But 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 to access indoor dining, go to hairdressers and gyms, or stay in hotels.

“Everybody can decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated or not,” he told reporters. “But in a free country, everybody bears responsibility for that.”

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