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Omikron: PCR tests are becoming scarce – who can count on preferential treatment

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Omikron: PCR tests are becoming scarce - who can count on preferential treatment



In view of the rapidly increasing number of people infected with corona and an increasing overload of the test laboratories, millions of Germans have to be prepared to wait longer for the results of their PCR tests – and thus to stay in quarantine longer in the event of an infection. “The test laboratories in northern Germany are already at the limit, and it’s just a matter of time that everyone in the country has reached this mark,” says the chairman of the Association of German Laboratory Doctors, Andreas Bobrowski, in an interview with WELT. Read also Politicians from several parties are now demanding that the tests be prioritized when evaluating them. The samples from employees in the areas of critical infrastructure such as the police and fire brigade or in the care sector should be evaluated with priority. “As long as there is a risk of overloading, the existing capacities must be used primarily according to urgency and medical needs,” says the health policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Tino Sorge (CDU). The Greens are also in favor of prioritization. The PCR tests of employees of critical infrastructures and seriously ill should have priority, according to Green health politician Janosch Dahmen. The could lead to delays in other population groups, for example in free testing after illnesses. “This not only means long queues in front of the test centers, but also that it takes a long time before the test result is available,” says Dahmen. The situation will only improve once the rapidly increasing corona numbers are under control. January 10: Queuing for the free PCR test in Berlin-Neukölln Source: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentral The national test strategy already lists a prioritization of PCR tests when capacities are tight, emphasizes SPD health politician Heike Baehrens. However, the left does not believe in giving priority to individual groups. “Prioritization always means the exclusion of other groups,” argues Linke health politician Kathrin Vogler. At the same time, determining whether a corona infection is present using a PCR test has many consequences, including serious legal ones – including the question of whether someone is considered “recovered”. “That’s why ensuring an adequate test infrastructure must be given top priority.” But that could be difficult in the short term. An expansion of laboratory capacities within a few days is not possible, says Michael Müller, chairman of the accredited laboratories in medicine: “You can’t quickly get capacities off the shelf and build them up, you need suppliers, equipment and employees for that.”

A lack of laboratory capacity is the main problem

The supply of test kits is not an obstacle: “After bottlenecks in November and December, the supply of antigen and PCR tests is currently secured,” says Martin Walger, Managing Director of the Association of the Diagnostics Industry. The problem lies rather in the heavy workload of the laboratory staff. The Federal Ministry of Health is currently examining options for expanding laboratory capacities, according to SPD politician Baehrens. “However, the feared shortage of staff is a cause for concern and can mean that large increases are difficult to achieve.” Read also Many laboratories have long since reacted and have started to prioritize samples. “If PCR tests are received from employees of critical infrastructures, they will be given priority,” says association head Bobrowski. “This means that other population groups may have to wait up to 24 or 36 hours for their test results instead of a maximum of twelve hours.” Submit tests,” says CDU health politician Sorge. “Laboratories and test centers urgently need guidance for their decisions.” So far, it has only been possible to end quarantine at home prematurely with a PCR test. Due to the bottlenecks, the government now wants to allow early free testing with “high-quality” antigen rapid tests. Such a step would relieve the laboratories. However, there are concerns about the poorer validity of antigen tests. Left-wing politician Vogler rejects the approach: “Under no circumstances should antigen tests replace the PCR tests for ‘free testing’ from quarantine.”

“The tests we have examined show very good sensitivity”

According to Klaus Cichutek, most rapid corona tests are also suitable for detecting the new omicron variant. The PEI President said at WELT that his institute had evaluated over 250 test products at a higher level of sensitivity and at least 80 percent would also achieve this level. The acute problem is that not every rapid antigen test can reliably detect the omicron variant. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has therefore commissioned the Paul Ehrlich Institute to draw up a list of antigen tests that are reliably effective at Omikron. You can listen to our WELT podcasts here. We use the player from the provider Podigee for our WELT podcasts. In order for you to be able to see the podcast player and to interact with or display content from Podigee and other social networks, we need your consent. Activate social networks “There are differences in the quality of antigen tests,” admits Walger from the Diagnostica Association. “This weakness has been recognized, which is why the Federal Ministry of Health wants to formulate further additional criteria for the use of these tests, and we as the manufacturer will support this.” Here you will find third-party content. In order to interact with or display third-party content, we need your consent . Enable external content



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