Doctors can check themselves

The national test strategy - corona tests in Germany

Sufficient tests are now available. Now not only people with symptoms or after contact with infected people can be tested, but all citizens who do not show any symptoms. In this way, cases can also be discovered in which there is no acute suspicion of infection.

If carriers of the virus are discovered at an early stage, it can prevent people from becoming infected who may be at high risk of suffering a severe, extremely serious or even fatal course. This in turn relieves the burden on the health system. In addition, the contacts of people who tested positive can be better understood through the testing. This also makes the further spread of SARS-CoV-2 more difficult.

Tests therefore help to identify and break chains of infection more quickly. They can also provide additional security in everyday life.

PCR tests

People with symptoms that indicate a corona infection should contact their doctor or the medical on-call service. You are entitled to a PCR test. To do this, a smear must be taken from each affected person, as the viruses multiply in the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. It is therefore smeared with a special swab in the nasopharynx. In more severe cases, secretions can also be taken from the deep respiratory tract

With this test procedure, the specimens must be transported to a laboratory as soon as possible after the swab. There, the genetic material of the virus is multiplied to such an extent that it can be detected, even if it only occurs in small quantities. The time between taking the test and getting the result is usually around 24 hours.

Rapid antigen tests

The protein structures of SARS-CoV-2 are detected in the antigen test procedure. They work on a similar principle to pregnancy tests. For this purpose, a sample from a smear from the front nose or the nasopharynx, but also saliva or gargle samples, is placed on a test strip. If the SARS-CoV-2 virus is contained in the sample, the protein components of the virus react with the test strip and a discoloration on the test strip becomes visible. The advantages of rapid antigen tests and self-tests are the comparatively low costs and the prompt test result (in less than 30 minutes). Self-tests and rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than a PCR test, which is why an infection with the coronavirus can be present even if the test result is negative.

Important:If a rapid antigen test or self-test suggests an infection, confirmation by means of a PCR test is essential. A negative test result is only a snapshot and does not release you from hygiene and protective measures (keyword AHA + L formula).

Since March 8, 2021, the federal government has also covered the costs of regular rapid antigen tests for all citizens. The test centers and stations commissioned by the federal states and municipalities, but also other commissioned bodies (e.g. doctors, pharmacies) should be used for this purpose. The federal government has secured a contingent of up to 925 million rapid antigen tests. The rapid antigen tests must be carried out by trained personnel. Antigen self-tests have also been available in stores since March 6, 2021. This allows laypeople to test themselves at home.

In Germany, the following groups of people are tested at the expense of the statutory health insurance

  • People with symptoms typical of COVID-19.
  • For people without symptoms who have had close contact with a person infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
  • People in communal facilities and accommodation (e.g. schools, daycare centers, refugee accommodation, emergency accommodation, prisons) if a person infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has been found in the facility.
  • Patients, residents and staff in the care facility or hospital when the facility has an outbreak of the virus. This also applies, for example, to facilities for people with disabilities, rehabilitation, outpatient operations or outpatient dialysis as well as to medical and dental practices and other practices for human medical professions, day clinics and the rescue service.
  • Patients or cared for before admission or re-admission: especially in medical facilities for inpatient and outpatient care (excluding practices for human, dental or other human medical professions), in (partially) inpatient facilities for the care and accommodation of elderly, disabled and people in need of care outpatient care services and integration assistance services, homeless shelters and day clinics.
  • In the case of persons in whom a rapid antigen test or a self-test has indicated an infection with SARS-CoV-2, confirmation with a PCR test should be made immediately.

In Germany, the following groups of people are tested with a rapid antigen test at the expense of the statutory health insurance

  • according to the test concept of the facility without a COVID-19 case: patients, those being cared for, those in need of care, accommodated, especially in medical facilities for inpatient and outpatient care (excluding practices for human, dental or other human medical health professions), in (part ) Inpatient facilities for the care and accommodation of the elderly, the disabled and those in need of care, outpatient care services and integration assistance services and in day clinics
  • Visitors immediately before entering the facility: especially in medical facilities for inpatient and outpatient care (excluding practices for human, dental or other medical professions) as well as in (partially) inpatient facilities for the care and accommodation of elderly, disabled and people in need of care .

Since March 8th, all citizens have also been entitled to at least one rapid antigen test per week. The federal government bears the costs for this.

What to do if you suspect an infection

Take cold symptoms seriously: even if you have slight signs of a respiratory infection, you should contact a doctor - preferably by phone. First discuss the procedure with your family doctor over the phone. Or you can contact the medical on-call service outside of office hours on the nationwide telephone number 116 117. The doctors or the on-call service will - if a test is required - tell you where the test can be carried out. In emergencies, for example if you have severe shortness of breath, dial 112.

People with mild cold symptoms should isolate themselves at home in order to have as few contacts as possible. According to a recommendation by the RKI, this self-isolation should be five days plus two days without symptoms. Those affected should clarify with their employers whether home office is possible during this time. If necessary, you should speak to your doctor about sick leave.

If you have had contact with a person who tested positive, even if there are no symptoms, contact the responsible health department, which will determine the further measures after an individual interview.

additional Information

  • Antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2

    List of antigen tests for direct pathogen detection of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 on the BfArM website

  • Current information on the coronavirus

    The latest developments in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and additional offers can be found on our coronavirus overview page.

  • Current information for travelers

    Here you can find out what you should pay attention to when on holiday in Germany or abroad, which regulations apply and what travelers from a risk area need to know.

  • Measures and test criteria (RKI)

    In the guidance for doctors you will find measures and test criteria for suspected COVID-19