Most COVID-19 tests in Germany no longer free of charge

BERLIN, June 30 (Xinhua) -- A new regulation came into force in Germany on Thursday that means COVID-19 tests are no longer free for most residents.

Under the regulation, tests continue to be free of charge for children under five, people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and visitors to hospitals and inpatient care facilities.

However, people attending large indoor events, as well as contact persons of elderly people over 60 and of people among high-risk groups must now pay a contribution of 3 euros (3.13 U.S. dollars) per test.

"The tests are valuable, they are important," Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach told public broadcaster ZDF. "I would have liked to continue offering them completely free of charge, but we could no longer afford that."

According to Lauterbach, the cost of the tests had reached around 1 billion euros per month. With cases expected to increase in the autumn, it is economically unfeasible for the government to continue covering expenses for tests, Lauterbach said.

As elsewhere in Europe, COVID-19 figures in Germany have recently risen again due to the more contagious Omicron variant BA.5. Within a week, the country's seven-day COVID-19 incidence rate climbed from 533 to around 669 infections per 100,000 inhabitants on Thursday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The Omicron sub-lineage BA.5 became the dominant COVID-19 variant in Germany last week, accounting for around half of infections, RKI said.

The health minister will present the country's COVID-19 health measures for the coming fall after examining the results of an expert report on the effectiveness of past COVID-19 measures, due to be presented on Friday.

Although Germany was one of the last countries in the European Union to drop restrictions for travelers entering from another EU member state, most restrictions on public life have now been lifted. (1 euro = 1.04 U.S. dollars)

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