Rapid tests by trained personnel, self-tests from retail stores: From the beginning of the week, anyone who wants to will be able to test without any special reason whether they are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and could possibly infect others. It should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. Low-cost self-testing and free rapid testing will be available quickly everywhere – at least that’s the plan.
National testing strategy – the federal government pays for tests
Every citizen will be able to take one rapid antigen test a week free of charge in pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries or test centers, with the federal government covering the costs. However, the countries have until the beginning of April to implement this measure as part of the national testing strategy. Trained personnel take a swab with a cotton swab, sometimes deep in the nose and throat. If a test is positive, the necessary sample for the mandatory PCR test can be taken on site.
Antigen tests do not look for genetic material in swab samples like a PCR test, but for molecules that are characteristic of the virus. The self-tests from pharmacies, retail stores and discounters are identical to the rapid tests. However, they must be paid for by the customer. Aldi started selling test kits over the weekend, online orders could be placed at Lidl, and from Monday onwards other stores and drugstore brands wanted to follow suit.
Proper guidance on sample collection important
The advantage: you can do the tests at home. The cotton swab does not have to be pushed as deeply into the nose as with conventional methods. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) points to studies showing that when properly instructed, specimen collection by private individuals and resulting results were comparable to collection by medical personnel. Improper smears can severely limit the validity of the test.
Is this now – along with vaccinations – the hoped-for way out of the corona crisis?? At least that’s what Chancellor Angela Merkel, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (both CDU) and the governments in the German states are counting on. For them, the non-laboratory tests are an important element in their recently adopted phased strategy of softening the lockdown depending on the infection situation.
Rapid tests depending on the infection situation
Rapid tests are already carried out, for example, before admission to old people’s homes, in clinics and after infection cases, for example in schools. In the medium term, self-tests with negative results could be sufficient for a visit to the dining area of a restaurant, for example – provided that the regional coronalage would permit this.
The purpose behind the rapid tests: to detect new Corona trap at an early stage. Because the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen has a characteristic that complicates the pandemic fight: infected persons can pass the virus on to others even if they do not (yet) show any symptoms of the Covid-19 disease. The tests should help protect against such traps.