The German heads of state and government have agreed that the German government will stop the costs of the coronavirus rapid test in order to induce more people to be vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated need to get tested.
The health restrictions for people in Germany who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID will be lifted in the coming months. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of the 16 federal states decided on Tuesday. The free COVID tests, which are paid for by the government, are also being phased out.
After the meeting, Merkel said Germany had to encourage more people to get vaccinated, as this offered “protection for everyone”.
The Chancellor added that the increase in COVID cases in Germany was exclusively due to people who had not yet been vaccinated.
Free vaccination instead of free tests
“As the number of infections increases, our attention is now directed to those who have not yet been vaccinated,” said Merkel.
She added that it would be good if vaccination rates hit “well over 70%, even up to 80%”, although she admitted that it is not currently safe.
“Since we can now make the vaccine available to all German citizens, we will end the free COVID-19 test for everyone from October 11,” said the Chancellor.
After this date, citizens will have to pay for the test themselves if they need it. However, children and adolescents as well as people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are exempt from this.
“Anyone who has not been vaccinated must in future be tested regularly when they come into contact with other people,” says a draft decision that is available to German news agencies.
According to the agreement made by the heads of state, people who are not vaccinated are required to present a negative test in order to gain access to certain indoor facilities such as hospitals and dormitories, as well as sports, cultural and recreational activities in areas with an infection rate of over 35%.
A fourth wave is on the way
Bavarian Governor Markus Söder said that vaccination will continue to be voluntary, but that those who refuse will have to take some of the responsibility and that taxpayers will not always be able to bear the cost of the tests.
Still, he called on people to get vaccinated because the tests weren’t enough and warned of the possibility of further outbreaks.
“What is clear,” he said at a press conference after the meeting, “is that a fourth wave will come, and probably in the fall”. The current infection rate is not enough not to worry people.
Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller, who chaired the conference, said at the press conference that great progress had been made and that restrictions and vaccinations had “saved many lives”.
But he also warned that there could be setbacks. Over the past year and a half we have learned that anything can happen and that we will face new varieties of the virus.
Now it is no longer about tightening restrictions, but about increasing vaccination rates, he added.
What is the status of COVID in Germany?
The obligation to test is lifted for vaccinated or recovered persons. The aim is to increase the pressure on those who have so far turned down the free coronavirus vaccine.
In Germany, around 55 percent of the population – almost 46 million people – are fully vaccinated, and another 3.7 million people have recovered from severe infections and have acquired a certain level of immunity.
Experts are concerned about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which has led to an increase in cases.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the federal government’s epidemic protection authority, reported an infection rate of 23.5 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days on Tuesday. A few months ago the rate had dropped to below five.