Germany plans to offer free rapid coronavirus tests from March 1

FILE PHOTO: A woman wears a protective mask as she crosses a bridge in front of the skyline as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues during an extended lockdown and a demand by the German government for more home office possibilities in Frankfurt, Germany, February 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to offer all citizens rapid coronavirus tests free of charge from March 1, its health minister said on Tuesday.

Jens Spahn said rapid antigen tests were now sufficiently available on the market to enable local test centres and pharmacies to offer the tests for free.

Earlier, German media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) reported that Spahn planned to expand the national testing strategy to enable free tests. The federal government plans to bear the costs, RND said.

Spahn also wants to make tests that can be conducted at home available to everyone once they have been approved by regulators.

“These testing options can contribute to a safe everyday life, especially in schools and daycare centres,” Spahn said on Twitter, adding the health ministry was in negotiations with test manufacturers.

The number of new daily infections in Germany has been falling in recent weeks, to 3,856 on Tuesday, although this was around 480 cases higher than a week ago. The seven-day incidence was 59 cases per 100,000.

German leaders agreed last week to tighten the threshold for a gradual reopening of the economy, targeting an infection rate of under 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, down from 50 previously.

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