Rush to test centers: “We are completely overrun”

Status: 10.12.2021 8:11 a.m.

Corona tests are extremely popular. 3G applies at work or in local public transport, and sometimes 2+ in bars, for example – there are long queues in front of many test centers. The tests are also running out.

Shortly before 5 p.m. at the corona test station near Cologne Cathedral: nine people are waiting in line for a corona test. One of them is Jürgen Siller. He would like to go out to eat with friends and maybe afterwards to a bar. Since some bars in Cologne require a current test in addition to the vaccination, i.e. 2G + applies, he would like to take precautionary measures.

The reasons why long queues are currently forming in front of the corona test centers are different. On the one hand, unvaccinated persons must prove at least one rapid test for access to the workplace or the use of buses and trains, which must not be older than 24 hours.

On the other hand, more and more people who have been vaccinated like Jürgen Siller are being tested. For example because of the 2G + rules or a red Corona warning app; but also because the rapid tests have become in short supply in supermarkets or in drugstores. Especially early in the morning and in the afternoon between 4 and 6 p.m. the rush is greatest, say operators of test centers.

Shortage of tests in many places

The centers, which have been offering free citizen tests again since November 13, are sometimes having difficulties in getting enough tests. “The market is difficult with regard to the procurement of the rapid tests. This is due to the fact that after the free test options no one dared to order further rapid tests,” says the entrepreneur Dario Vrebac, who runs a private test center in Iserlohn.

In Dormagen, tests are carried out in front of a shopping market, among other things. In order to maintain operations, the tests even have to be procured via ebay because the wholesaler can no longer deliver. As a result, the costs for the purchase are currently higher than the reimbursement by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, according to Peter Herzogenrath from the Corona Test Center in Dormagen.

How are the test centers organized in Germany?

The test centers in Germany are run by both municipal and private operators. The private bodies are commissioned in accordance with the respective test regulations of the federal states. Behind the centers are, for example, pharmacies, rescue and aid organizations or private companies. The costs for the rapid tests must then be settled with the local Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians and are borne by the federal government.

Since November 13, 2021, all citizens in Germany have been entitled to at least one rapid antigen test (PoC test) per week by trained staff, provided that the test capacities allow it.

The registration of the test site, the execution of the tests and the billing by the test centers are then checked by local authorities. Whoever is responsible in a federal state regulates the infection and occupational safety and medical device regulations of the respective health ministries.

Working at the limit of capacity

In many places the test centers are springing up again. However, there are also test centers, such as the Oberbergische Apotheke in Hückeswagen in North Rhine-Westphalia, that have not reopened. In order to start the test operation again, one would have to rent rooms again and recruit staff, it says there. Due to the uncertainty as to how long the demand for the tests will continue, the test operation is not allowed to start again here.

It is different in the Dortmund drive-in test center “Co-Drive”. There the number of tests during the week has almost exploded. Whereas in the previous months there was an average of around 40 people per day, now up to 950 test-willing come per day. Work is at the limit of capacity.

Good planning pays off

In the rapid test center in Siegen, it pays off that the company has never closed. You have around 20,000 tests in stock, which is enough for just under two weeks. “We are one of three test stations nationwide that work with an automatic treadmill that automatically photographs, archives and sends all tests. This machine can do 110 tests per hour, and at peak times it is even overloaded,” says Jens Kreutz from the Siegen rapid test center. But you don’t have to wait ten minutes to make an appointment.

In the Coronapoint test centers in Cologne, on the other hand, you can take a relaxed look at the current situation, even if you are completely overrun. When the former Health Minister Jens Spahn announced the reintroduction of the free tests, more than a million tests were ordered here. The demand for tests from other test centers is therefore correspondingly high.

The biotechnology company CeGat, which tests for example on the fairground in Tübingen and has its own laboratory, is optimistic: “We have the opportunity to expand our test capacities to 2,000 to 3,000 tests a day at short notice.”

Trouble in the queue

Quarrels and disputes often arise due to the waiting times. “You can tell that customers are becoming more aggressive, but fortunately there are exceptions,” says Jens Kreutz from Siegen. In the meantime, security personnel have been employed at some test centers in Germany to ensure security on site.

In one case in Dormagen, the police had to be called because a customer did not want to accept that he had to be quarantined after a positive test. But it’s not that rough everywhere. “The municipal regulatory authority has no knowledge of incidents,” says Elke Lammerich-Schnackertz, press spokeswoman for the city of Lohmar in the Rhein-Sieg district.

Operators recommend online registrations

Christoph Neumeier and his company CoviMedical operate around 100 test centers nationwide and therefore advises booking appointments early and sticking to the time booked. “An online appointment is necessary and prevents queues and thus infections,” says Niko Gössing from the test team from Grevenbroich. Dusseldorf contact traces from the summer prove that there have already been infections – even if only in a few cases – in test centers.

This in turn shows that queuing outdoors, as at the test station in Cologne near the cathedral, can be worthwhile. Because the rate of infection is lower outside than inside.

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