Pandemic: Debate about further financing of corona tests and masks

Debate about further financing of corona tests and masks

A corona test station in Hamburg. photo

© Marcus Brandt/dpa

What regulations and protective measures are still necessary to keep the pandemic under control in the coming months? A decision is pending for rapid tests, which have cost the federal government billions so far.

The debate about the corona protection measures in winter is expanding. The state funding of tests is also coming into focus because the current federal regulations end on November 25th.

The government is currently voting on a follow-up regulation, as the Ministry of Health announced on request. The co-governing FDP called for an end to the billions in payments for citizen tests, and mask requirements are also up for debate. Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) insists on further corona protection, especially for risk groups.

The FDP budget expert Karsten Klein told the “Welt”: “There is no longer any reason for the federal government to finance unprovoked citizen tests.” The federal states are free to decide on their own test measures and to finance them themselves. The Union health expert Tino Sorge (CDU) said it makes more sense to specifically support sensitive areas with tests, such as nursing homes and clinics.

Discussion about citizen tests

Since a new regulation in the summer, there have only been free citizen tests for certain risk groups. As a rule, you have to pay three euros out of your own pocket for a quick test: for example before going to a concert, larger family celebrations or visiting older people. The federal government is spending billions on financing. The test regulation also regulates the assumption of costs for PCR laboratory tests. According to “Welt”, a draft by the Ministry of Health provides for further funding of corona citizen tests until April 2023.

The Social Association Germany again called for free tests for everyone. Many could hardly or no longer afford food and energy, said Vice President Ursula Engelen-Kefer of the German Press Agency. “It’s totally unacceptable that people have to choose between buying groceries and getting tested.” The higher the number of unreported cases, the more people who cannot be vaccinated could be forced to isolate themselves.

The German Foundation for Patient Protection called for a nationwide test strategy for care. “Each federal state does what it wants here,” said board member Eugen Brysch of the dpa. “Fewer and fewer facilities are offering on-site testing for visitors.” Those in need of care, patients and their relatives suffered as a result.

Green parliamentary group leader Maria Klein-Schmeink campaigned for more citizen tests. “It would be unwise to leave it out before winter, of all things,” she told the “world”. The SPD health politician Heike Baehrens told the newspaper that one should not stop doing everything to ensure that vulnerable groups are further protected. Citizen tests are “an indispensable tool” for this.

Discussion about mask rules

In the discussion about everyday requirements that are still necessary, the FDP health expert Andrew Ullmann called for additional easing of mask requirements. “The burden of disease in the population is not as high as feared,” he said “Zeit online”. “A mask requirement in long-distance traffic is therefore no longer tenable.” The current Infection Protection Act stipulates it for long-distance trains nationwide until April 2023, but it has now been omitted on airplanes. The federal states can set mask rules for local public transport.

Lauterbach explained the debate about protection rules that there was no reason for the alarm at the moment. Everything is prepared for the winter, too, so that it stays that way. “We’ll see what’s in the spring,” wrote the minister on Twitter. He added: “First of all, old and sick people have to be protected in winter. For a Christian party, that should be self-evident.”

Lauterbach responded to statements by CDU leader Friedrich Merz. With a view to the current pandemic situation, he said that he did not share Lauterbach’s “almost siren-like alarmism”. “We should return to normality and officially declare Corona over by spring next year at the latest,” Merz told the newspapers of the Funke media group.


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