08:00 · 23 August 2022

I want to get tested for coronavirus – when, where and how?

The various types of tests are appropriate for different situations. This article will tell you when to get which coronavirus test.

Coronavirus tests help to stem the pandemic.

In case of symptoms: Contact your doctor

If you have any symptoms typical of coronavirus infection – a sore throat, cough, runny nose, for example – the following continues to apply: Stay at home, wherever possible, and contact your GP – preferably by phone. Together, you can then discuss the next steps, such as which type of coronavirus test to take and where you can get it. For more information on symptoms, please click here.

Free citizens' tests are still available

Citizens' tests are still being offered to help interrupt chains of infection. Thanks to the new Testing Ordinance, effective since 30 June 2022, even more targeted use is being made of testing capacities. Citizens are still eligible for free citizens’ tests if certain conditions apply. To qualify, the person to be tested must identify themselves at the point of testing and present appropriate documentation, such as an ID card, maternity record, medical or other certificate.

Tests continue to be free for:

  • Children under the age of 5, that is up to their fifth birthday
  • Persons who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, including pregnant women in the first trimester
  • Persons who, at the time of testing, are taking part in clinical studies on the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines
  • Persons who need a test to end their self-isolation period (“test to release”)
  • Visitors at and patients or residents in,
    • hospitals
    • rehabilitation facilities
    • residential long-term care facilities
    • facilities for persons with disabilities
    • outpatient surgery facilities
    • dialysis centres
    • non-residential services and residential facilities for integration assistance
    • day hospitals
    • maternity facilities
  • eligible persons who employ persons within the context of a personal budget pursuant to section 29 Social Code Book IX and persons employed by eligible persons within the context of a personal budget
  • caregiving relatives
  • persons sharing a household with a person proven to be infected.

Citizens’ test for a co-payment of three euros

Also before attending indoor events, after high-risk encounters, if the Corona-Warn-App shows a red warning or to protect vulnerable groups, it makes sense to get tested to break infection chains. The State continues to support testing for these purposes. However, citizens need to contribute three euros towards the test. The remainder is paid by the Federal Government in the following cases:

  • Persons who wish to attend an indoor event on the day of testing
  • Persons who, on the day of testing, will have contact with persons at a high risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 (these include persons 60 years or over, persons with disabilities or pre-existing conditions)
  • Persons whose Corona-Warn-App alerted them to a high-risk encounter (“red tile”).

Documents required for free tests or tests with three euros co-payment

Persons who wish to get a free test have to show identification at the test centre and furnish proof: For young children, this would be the birth certificate or children’s passport, for pregnant women the maternity record. Persons who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons must present the original medical certificate stating the medical contraindications. Participants in vaccine efficacy studies can ask the sponsor to issue them with a participation certificate for presentation. Persons who want to test to release need to present the test result; the same goes for household members of infected persons who, in addition, need documentation proving that they live at the same address.

Visitors to nursing homes or hospitals can take a free test on site or state the visit as a reason for the test at the test centre. Family caregivers have to declare that they look after a relative with care needs. Persons eligible for benefits within the framework of a personal budget and persons employed by them must also state that this is the case.

Eligibility must also be proven for citizens' tests with a co-payment. Proof of the reason for testing is to be provided by means of self-statement.

The rapid antigen test: Professional use

Rapid antigen tests for professional use are carried out by persons who have the necessary training or knowledge – such as trained staff at pharmacies, GP surgeries or test centres. 

The rapid antigen test involves taking a swab from the front of the nose or the nasopharyngeal area and transferring it to a test strip. The result is available in less than 30 minutes. 

The alternative for home use: Self-tests

A good alternative to rapid tests are self-tests that can be easily done at home. Self-tests are available at supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies and can be done, for instance, using a nasal swab or saliva. Instructions on how to correctly use the test are provided with the test kit. Please consult the instructions to learn what to do and how to read the test result. For tips on how to take and use the test, also read here.

How reliable are rapid antigen tests and self-tests?

Critical for the accuracy of both test variants is the level of viral load, that is, how much coronavirus is already present in the nasopharyngeal area. In most cases, the viral load is only high enough to register on the test after the first symptoms have set in. However, those affected can already be infectious one to two days before onset of symptoms – even before a rapid antigen test or self-test displays a positive test result. Important: If the antigen self-test is positive, you should stay at home, avoid contact with others and phone your GP surgery to discuss what further steps are needed.

Who is eligible for a PCR test?

All citizens are eligible for a PCR test if their positive rapid antigen test or self-test is positive. However, prior to that, a correctly used rapid antigen test or self-test must have been conducted.

Prioritisation of PCR tests

Certain groups of persons and personnel in the healthcare system are generally prioritised for the diagnosis and evaluation of their PCR tests. Those are:

  • Persons at risk of severe illness. This group includes the elderly, persons with underlying conditions and immunocompromised persons.
  • Healthcare workers. Those include staff at doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, long-term facilities and EMS personnel.
  • Persons working in vulnerable areas – specifically long-term care facilities, integration assistance or caregiving relatives.

How is a PCR test carried out?

If your doctor thinks you should get a PCR test, the surgery will directly make an appointment or give you an address where you can get tested. Outside of your GP’s surgery hours, you can also call the out-of-hours medical service by dialling the number 116117 from anywhere in Germany. They will tell you if you should get a PCR test, and where. 

PCR tests are carried out by trained professionals. Usually, they use a special swab to take a sample from the throat or nose. The sample is then sent to a lab and analysed. You will receive the result by email after about 24 hours. Before the result is in, you should by all means self-isolate at home. 

This guidance applies only in cases of mild to moderate symptoms of respiratory disease. In emergencies, above all in case of breathing difficulties, please always dial 112.

Follow the AHA+L+A formula

For all types of testing, the following applies: A negative test result is only ever a momentary snapshot. That is why it is important to follow the AHA+L+A formula even after a negative test result. Keep a distance, follow hygiene rules and – when there is little space in everyday life or in enclosed spaces, wear a face mask. A positive result can be confirmed by a PCR test. In any case, you should self-isolate at home if you suspect that you might be infected.

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