In August of last year, when I left Berlin, Germany, where I live, to visit my family in Brazil, I took 30 rapid coronavirus tests in my suitcase. At the time, I bought each one for just over a euro. The tests are simple and you do it yourself at home with a cotton swab or saliva. And, since the end of 2020, they have been part of the routine of those who live in the European country.
By Christmas of the first year of the pandemic, I already had the tests at home, bought at the pharmacy and, before the family party for four people, everyone tested themselves. The rapid antigen tests that I took in my suitcase are kept as treasures by my family and friends in Brazil. Many have been used in recent days, with the increase in cases of ômicron and influenza.
At the time, I was called exaggerated. But, when I go to Brazil again this year, I intend to take at least 50. This is because self-tests are still prohibited in Brazil by Anvisa. And, for days now, I’ve been following the saga of Brazilian friends who need to be tested because they have symptoms.
In Germany, self-tests are currently sold for 2.90 euros (approximately R$18.40) in supermarkets and drugstores. But many are offered for free. Children take this type of test at school at least three times a week, and companies are required to provide such tests for employees.
free testing centers
In addition, there are testing centers that offer free antigen on every corner. It’s no exaggeration: in Berlin alone, where I live, there are more than 1,200 places where citizens can test themselves for free daily. The government’s recommendation is that everyone test themselves at least once a week.
In the last few days, the queue for the test at the pharmacy next to my house has increased. The reason: in addition to the omicron and the increase in cases (Berlin is one of the hotspots of the pandemic in Germany), some people are there to be able to catch a bus or go to work.
I explain. Since November, the so-called 3G rule has been applied in work environments and public transport. In general terms, it means that those who are not vaccinated or have a certificate of recovery from the recent coronavirus can only use public transport or enter work if they present a negative test made in the last 24 hours. If caught without, he has to pay a fine and is asked to leave.
But we, the vaccinated, also make use of the tests. It’s routine. If you’re going to make a dinner for friends, everyone tests themselves. In schools, with the omicron, testing has increased. Since returning from the Christmas holidays, children and teenagers have had to test themselves every day at school before class starts.
And I, I don’t lie, I have a stock of tests at home (my husband got a box of 100 from work) and I test myself whenever I feel like I have the flu or I’m afraid of being contaminated.
Before we were vaccinated, we tested ourselves even more. When shops and restaurants reopen after a long lockdown, in April 2021, you had to present a negative test to enter. The same was true for clubs and concerts. This was the way the government found to make life return a little to normal.
Minister of Health is enthusiastic about rapid tests
In the case of self-tests, they are also recommended to protect the most vulnerable groups. A few days before the holidays, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach sent a message to citizens asking everyone to test themselves before meeting a small group of family or friends. Especially when visiting the elderly.
The minister, by the way, is one of the great enthusiasts of rapid tests. At the beginning of the pandemic, when he was not yet a minister, but only one of the most famous epidemiologists in the country, he insisted on importing and manufacturing rapid tests for everyone.
With the Ômicron, the tests became even more important. In Berlin, from January 15th, to enter restaurants, you will have to present your vaccination passport with both doses, plus the booster dose. Anyone who only has two will have to submit a test.
I, vaccinated three times, will not have this obligation. But I will continue to test myself always. And, of course, just in case, I’m going to start stocking up on a quick test to take this year to Brazil.