Germany will once again offer free Covid tests to all adults in the country, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, a move intended to detect infections earlier as case numbers continue to reach record highs.
The country has spent billions of dollars since March offering at least one free antigen test per capita each week, but then ended its policy last month in the hope that getting people to pay for tests would lead them to be vaccinated. .
Now German leaders are struggling to act as business numbers move upwards. On Thursday – after a week in which new case numbers set records four times – health officials recorded 48,640 new infections, a slight decrease from Wednesday’s number.
The Minister of Health’s hour-long news conference was apparently an attempt to show national leadership in what is increasingly seen as a nationwide crisis. Mr. Spahn even suggested that Covid tests may eventually be required, even for people who have been vaccinated, for access to certain venues and events.
But not everyone seems worried about the rise in numbers.
On Thursday, tens of thousands of celebrants gathered in Cologne for the start of the carnival season. Although the designated party venues were limited to participants who could prove that they had been vaccinated or recovered from Covid, the controls were lax and impromptu parties arose outside those zones.
A musician who played at the festivities warned partygoers not to kiss strangers this year, a reference to a use of carnival celebrations.
“Maybe this year just snog your partner! Otherwise we will not get through the season, “said the musician, Peter Brings. “And next year we can all make out with each other again.”
On Friday morning, the Robert Koch Institute, the German authority that monitors the pandemic, released a new set of guidelines that, among other things, propose that major events be canceled.