“We see that the infection rate here is declining faster than in other countries which have similar vaccination figures,” said Prof Ulf Dittmer, director of virology at the University Hospital in the western city of Essen. . “And I think part of it has to do with widespread testing.”
Almost 23% of Germans are fully vaccinated, which means they don’t have to present test results. Another 47% who received at least one dose of the vaccine and those who are not vaccinated still do so, even though on Tuesday there were only 20.8 infections per 100,000 people in a week, a number never seen since early October, before a second wave started to spread.
Throughout the pandemic, Germany has been a world leader in large-scale testing. It was one of the first countries to develop a test to detect the coronavirus and has relied on tests to help identify and break chains of infection. Last summer, everyone who returned home to Germany after a vacation in countries with high infection rates was tested.
The current tests were considered particularly important due to the relatively slow start of the vaccination campaign in Germany. The country has remained loyal to the European Union by purchasing vaccines in a single unit and found itself in a bind as Brussels hesitated to secure vaccines quickly enough. The United States has fully immunized almost twice as many of its population.
Uwe Gottschlich, 51, is among those who are taking tests to return to some semblance of normalcy. Recently, he sat in the comfortable back of a bicycle taxi that cycled tourists around central Berlin landmarks.
Karin Schmoll, the manager of the bicycle taxi company, now converted to administer tests and wearing a full green medical gown, gloves, mask and face shield, approached, explained the procedure, then told him asked to remove her mask so she could delicately probe her nostrils with a cotton swab.
“I meet friends later,” he says. “We are planning to sit down somewhere for a drink.” Berlin requires a test before drinking indoors, but not outdoors.