“Screaming contradiction”: Is the criticism of the PCR test strategy justified?

The federal and state governments decided on Monday to prioritize PCR tests. According to the plans, the reliable PCR tests should only be used to detect an infection for particularly vulnerable groups as well as hospital and nursing staff. After a positive rapid test or a warning from their Corona warning app, everyone else should use a second rapid test to check whether they are infected and then isolate themselves. The decision by the federal and state governments is due to bottlenecks in PCR test capacities and laboratory capacities.

Criticism is now pouring in from several quarters. Group representatives from the CDU and the left complain: PCR tests should continue to be accessible to everyone. In addition, this measure leads to communication chaos. The teachers’ associations don’t agree either: “Of course, it’s a glaring contradiction when politicians affirm in unison that keeping schools open has top priority, but ducks away, as so often before, when it’s a very specific question of helping students and teachers Prioritize health protection measures, ”says the head of the teachers’ association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, in an interview with the (RND).

Is the criticism of the PCR test strategy justified?

Pro 1: mendacious reasoning by the federal government


The fact that the test strategy is now being adjusted shows one thing above all, criticizes ZDF editor Jan Schuessler. Germany capitulated before the Omicron wave. Because now it is becoming clear that “Germany has built up far too little test capacity”.

In Schüßler’s eyes, the federal government is now only doing damage limitation. 2.8 million PCR tests per week are currently possible in Germany, explains the ZDF journalist. That is far too little. A comparison with Austria shows this clearly. Since 2020, PCR gargle tests have been free for everyone there. “Vienna alone can evaluate more than 3.5 million PCR tests per week with this strategy.” It is therefore false that the government is blaming the change in test strategy on the high incidence of omicrons. In truth, the government simply failed to build up testing capacities in good time.

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The euphemism of the health authorities’ loss of control over contact tracing was also dismissed as prioritization. According to Schuessler, neither the test capacities nor the contact tracing have really been expanded. The reason for this is, for example, the lack of digitization in the healthcare system. This could become problematic when estimating the hospitalization rate for the omicron variant. Because “the hospitalization rate in the fall was almost as high as during the second wave. But you didn’t see it in the data at the time,” Schüßler quotes his colleague Robert Meyer as saying.

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Contra 1: Our sense of citizenship is required here

Weltärztechef Frank Ulrich Montgomery

World Medical Director Frank Ulrich Montgomery defends the decision to prioritize the PCR tests. The tests are scarce and expensive, says Montgomery in an interview with the AUGSBURGER ALLGEMEINEN, which was summarized by editor Margit Hufnagel. Since the tests are paid for by the state, i.e. by the general public, it is right that the tests are now only made possible where they are really needed.

Montgomery thinks that this is why the personal responsibility of citizens is now all the more important. “Our sense of citizenship is in demand here,” Mongomery demands. If the self-test is positive, it is now important to isolate yourself even without symptoms. “You don’t need a law or regulation to do that—just plain common sense,” says Montgomery. PCR tests are also not urgently needed for this.

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Of course, the prioritization of certain groups is difficult to convey: “Anyone who just wants to go shopping or go to a restaurant without being vaccinated will have to take a back seat in favor of the weakest in our society,” says Montgomery. That is why it is now all the more important that more people get vaccinated. He reminds: The health authorities can hardly keep up and contact tracing is often hardly possible.

Pro 2: The federal government pulls the ripcord too soon


In the eyes of Jan Rübel, the federal government is pulling the ripcord too soon when it comes to testing. The YAHOO reporter argues that this not only means that she is letting an important instrument for infection control out of her hands. In addition, with this policy, the federal government is creating a multi-class society in pandemic management.

“Those who have enough money in their pockets will continue to have PCR tests done – and pay for them,” says Rübel. But the prices from at least 60 euros are not really affordable for low-income households.

The SPD in particular, the commentator recalls, won the last federal election by backing justice and respect. “These two buzzwords are also justified when it comes to the question of who benefits from PCR tests and who does not,” Rübel points out. “Olaf Scholz should consider whether he only wants to be Chancellor of the top ten thousand – or more.”

Against 2: Prioritization is necessary to relieve the labs

Christina Sartori, science journalist

The science journalist Christina Sartori admits that PCR tests are much more accurate in detecting an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Nevertheless, she considers it necessary to prioritize PCR tests in order to relieve the laboratories.

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“The limit that can be done in laboratories per day and per week has almost been reached for the PCR tests,” explains Sartori in an interview with presenter Diane Hielscher on DEUTSCHLANDFUNK NOVA. However, a rapid evaluation is still important, also in order to be freed from the quarantine.

Because if more and more people are now in quarantine, there is a risk that the infrastructure will collapse. “A PCR test that comes too late is of little use,” says Sartori. That is why the science journalist supports the search for pragmatic solutions in the tests.

The Buzzard news and debate app offers daily diversity of opinion on three topics.


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