Germany puts hopes in rapid testing as AstraZeneca vaccines pile up

Germany is hoping to claw back some degree of normal life with a new testing regime, although Health Minister Jens Spahn appealed for patience on Wednesday in rolling out the promised tests.

New testing capabilities offered a way of winning back “a bit more freedom,” Spahn told lawmakers in the Bundestag.

While he welcomed the fact that the first three at-home tests had received regulatory approval in Germany earlier that day, the minister said that such kits were not yet broadly available.

These should become more widespread week by week, he said, adding that they could provide peace of mind for individuals or “possibly when it comes to a theatre visit or an event.”

Cultural facilities have been closed for months in Germany along with other parts of public life. However, calls for a plan to ease current lockdown restrictions are growing.

The other aspect of Spahn’s strategy is rapid testing carried out by trained professionals. He had initially pledged to offer this free service from March 1 but this has been delayed, leading to criticism from the opposition and from businesses eager to relaunch.

Rapid testing in chemists across the country is now expected to begin in the coming weeks.

Spahn has also come under pressure for Germany’s sluggish vaccination campaign, which has most recently been hampered by a low uptake on the Covid-19 vaccine produced by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

According to his ministry, more than 1.4 million doses of the drug have been distributed to German states, but by Tuesday, only around 239,000 had been administered, according to the nation’s Robert Koch Institute.

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