Health Ministers Conference
Corona autumn strategy: the federal and state governments are arguing about free citizen tests

An employee of a corona test station takes a smear

The conference of health ministers of the federal states deals with the question of whether citizen tests for the corona virus should remain free of charge

© Hauke-Christian Dittrich / DPA

In the corona crisis, free quick tests are a simple way for many to be more secure before going to a party, for example. But for the state this is an expensive thing. How’s that going? That’s what the conference of health ministers was about.

The federal and state governments are struggling to make the offer more free corona-Rapid tests in summer and autumn. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is aiming to restrict the “citizen tests” financed by the federal government until the end of June. From the federal states and from social associations, calls for free tests continued to come in many places at a conference of health ministers with Lauterbach on Wednesday. During the preparations for a possible new wave of infection in autumn, necessary stricter requirements such as mask requirements are also being discussed.

Bavaria’s head of department Klaus Holetschek (CSU) spoke out in favor of holding on to free citizen tests for visitors to clinics and nursing homes. In a pandemic, the protection of life is the central issue and not the question of financing expenses, he said before the conference in Magdeburg. “I don’t want visitors to old people’s and nursing homes to say, for example, that I’m not visiting my grandmother because I can no longer afford the test.” Holetschek called for the group of people for citizen tests to be “rather broader than narrower”. The countries did not initially contribute to the costs, they already did that for vaccination centers.

Lauterbach: Restrict the offer for corona tests

Lauterbach has confirmed its plan to benefit from the free coronacitizen tests move away for everyone. The citizen tests had to be restricted somewhat, said the SPD politician before the conference of health ministers. In the past, tests were billed for that were not carried out and tests were carried out that were not necessary. Better quality control is needed, emphasized Lauterbach.

According to the Federal Minister of Health, the test offer should in future be geared more towards those “who actually need the test”. In particular, those who visit people in care facilities should be protected. In addition, tests should be possible before major events.

Lauterbach said on Tuesday evening in the ARD program “Maischberger” that the federal states wanted to continue testing, but they didn’t want to pay. This has to be negotiated. The minister also referred to a requirement of the budget committee of the Bundestag, according to which the federal government should only continue to pay if the federal states bear part of the costs. The federal government has now incurred billions in costs for this.

The FDP budget politician Karsten Klein said: “There will be no further as before with the citizen tests.” Protection against infection and combating pandemics are primarily the responsibility of the federal states, and this also applies to financing. The Federal Court of Auditors has repeatedly pointed this out and demanded that the federal states share the costs.

According to a proposal by the Federal Ministry of Health, only people with symptoms should be eligible for free tests, as well as other selected groups such as small children and pregnant women. A paper on the “Corona Autumn Strategy”, which is available to the German Press Agency, also specifically mentions preventive tests in clinics and nursing homes, in the event of a spreading infection situation in “hotspots” and for war refugees from Ukraine. The editorial network Germany had previously reported on it.

Social association warns of restricted citizen tests

According to the rules in force until the end of June, everyone without cause or symptoms is entitled to at least one rapid test per week at test sites by trained staff and with a certificate. As the ministry paper goes on to say, an easily accessible test infrastructure should also be maintained in pharmacies. More controls should also push back billing fraud.

The social association VdK warned that it would be negligent to only offer limited free citizen tests. The number of infections is already high and will certainly continue to rise. “The pandemic can hardly be measured without citizen tests,” said President Verena Bentele. The head of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, demanded in the “Rheinische Post” that there should be no cutback in free tests. “Limiting preventive tests to hospitals and nursing homes alone excludes 3.2 million people in need of care, their relatives and carers.”

Conference of Health Ministers: Corona autumn strategy: the federal and state governments are arguing about free citizen tests

Regulations for autumn are also on the agenda

On the occasion of the two-day Health Ministers Conference it is also about legal regulations for the fall. The head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Andreas Gassen, told the editorial network Germany that the course of the disease is currently mostly mild. “Many of those affected don’t even realize it.” Therefore, higher infection numbers alone could not be the basis for measures, “e.g. for a new mask requirement”.

The opposition Union also called for more precise data on immunity in Germany for the autumn in order to close a possible gap through targeted vaccination campaigns. To this day it is unclear how big it really is after vaccinations and infections that have gone through, according to a statement by the health politicians from the CDU and CSU. A representative antibody study should therefore be carried out quickly and a data protection-compliant, unbureaucratic vaccination register set up. An evaluation of the compulsory corona vaccination for employees in clinics and nursing homes, which has been in effect since March, should be submitted to the Bundestag by September 30th. The federal government must also clarify whether this vaccination requirement should continue to apply beyond December 31st.