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PCR, rapid or self-test - overview for testing

What is the difference between PCR tests, rapid antigen tests and self-tests?

At PCR tests the genetic material of the viruses is multiplied so strongly in the laboratory that SarSCoV-2 can be detected even in small amounts. The evaluation in the laboratory takes a few hours, plus transport time to the laboratory and, if necessary, a waiting time due to a high number of samples.

At Rapid antigen tests protein structures of SARS-CoV-2 are detected. They work on a similar principle to pregnancy tests. If there are viruses in the sample, the protein components of the virus will react with the test strip. For an antigen test to show a positive result, a larger amount of virus is required compared to PCR testing. A laboratory is not required for the evaluation. A result is available in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the manufacturer.

Also Self-tests have already been approved by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) - in terms of their mode of action, these are also rapid antigen tests. The self-tests are over-the-counter and can also be used safely by untrained people following the instructions for use. For this, the sampling and evaluation must be correspondingly simple. The test can be done with a nasal swab or saliva, for example.

When are PCR tests used and when are rapid tests used?

PCR tests are the most reliable tests. They should always be used if there is a suspicion of SarsCoV-2 infection, for example due to symptoms of the disease or due to contact with infected people. The cost of a test will be covered if your doctor or health department approves it.

Rapid antigen testscan provide information within a short time on whether or not someone can infect others at the time of the test. In the case of rapid antigen tests, a nose and / or throat swab is taken, similar to the PCR test. Rapid tests are carried out by trained staff in accordance with the applicable national test strategy and used in old people's and nursing homes, in clinics and also in schools. Self-tests are also rapid antigen tests. In principle, the following applies: Since rapid antigen tests are not as reliable as PCR tests, infection with SarsCoV-2 cannot be completely ruled out. Compliance with the AHA + L rule is therefore necessary even if the test result is negative.

Since March 8th, all citizens can at least once a week with a rapid test get tested. The tests are carried out in the test centers of the local health authorities or by commissioned third parties such as pharmacies or doctors. The federal government bears the costs.

How meaningful are the corona tests?

PCR tests offer the most reliable results - they are the "gold standard" among corona tests. The samples are taken by medical staff, the evaluation by laboratories. In comparison, rapid tests identify infected people and uninfected people less well. However, they increase security in the corona pandemic and offer additional security when making contacts: If the result is negative, it is very likely that no one else will be infected in the next few hours.

After a quick test - for example when visiting a clinic - the AHA rules should still be followed. Anyone who tested positive with a rapid test should also confirm the result with a PCR test.

This is how I get tested - more about rapid antigen tests

How often can I get tested with a quick test?

Every citizen has the right to at least one rapid corona test per week. The test centers and stations commissioned by the federal states and municipalities are to be used for this purpose. The tests are free of charge for citizens, the costs are borne by the federal government.

How old can a rapid test be?

The negative test result of a rapid test is valid for a total of 24 hours. If a rapid test is positive, the result should definitely be confirmed by a PCR test.

How is the result of a rapid test documented?

Every test center already has a documentation system. After a quick test, the person tested receives a certificate stating, among other things, who was tested with whom, when, with what result. Pharmacies and medical practices provide similar certificates.

What happens after a positive rapid test?

If a rapid test is positive, the result should definitely be confirmed by a PCR laboratory test. In the test centers, it should be possible to have the sample removed immediately. As a precaution, you should stay in isolation at home until the result is available. Positive results of rapid antigen tests carried out by trained personnel must also be reported.

This is how I test myself - more about corona self-tests

How reliable are corona self-tests?

The advantage of rapid antigen tests for self-application, in shortSelf-tests, is a quick result after 15 to 30 minutes. Every rapid test, even if it has been taken correctly, is a snapshot. Anyone who meets someone after a negative test result has a greater degree of certainty that they will not infect anyone.

However, if you use the test yourself, incorrect results can already result from poor handling of the test. And they are less reliable. Therefore, please keep the AHA + L rules in the event of a negative test result. And every positive result of a self-test should be backed up with a PCR test. Until this result applies: Put yourself in quarantine.

What should I watch out for when using self-tests?

Self-tests offer the opportunity to test yourself quickly and easily. The previously approved self-tests use nasal swabs. However, it is also conceivable that further test procedures, for example for examining gargle solutions, will be approved in the future. Always refer to the Instructions for Use before use to learn how the smear must be taken for the test to work. You can see more about this in this video:

What happens after a positive self-test?

Anyone who does a self-test that turns out positive should have it confirmed by a PCR test. There is a right to such a PCR test if the self-test is positive.

If you have tested positive yourself at home, you should make an appointment with your family doctor or call 116 117 to be tested with a PCR test. As a precaution, you should go into isolation at home until the result is available.

How do I recognize a serious self-test?

You can recognize a serious self-test by the clearly legible imprint on the packaging about the special approval of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices and / or the CE mark together with a four-digit identification number of the notified body.

There should also be instructions for use in German in the packaging. This ensures that the self-test was developed for use by laypeople and can be used in Europe.

Where can I buy self-tests?

The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has now approved a series of corona self-tests. Further approvals will be added. The tests are available in stores, pharmacies and some discounters. This distribution channel guarantees that the self-tests - as planned - establish themselves in everyday life.

Quantities, costs, test strategy - more information on testing

Are there enough rapid antigen tests and self-tests?

The federal government has at least 800 million Rapid antigen tests secured for this year (as of April 7th), including through European framework agreements. He supports the federal states and municipalities in procurement. The actual market supply will far exceed this quota.

To start the Self-tests In order to accelerate this, the federal task force has arranged call quotas with a volume of more than 130 million tests for March and April 2021 (Roche: 70.5 million, Siemens: 62 million). In addition, the Federal Ministry of Health has concluded self-test agreements with several providers. These allow the countries to order at uniform offer conditions and help the providers with planning.

Which test costs are covered?

Basically, the following applies: costs for tests will be covered if testing according to the Coronavirus Test Ordinance is planned. This regulation is continuously adapted, for example when new test options are added or more tests are available.

The PCR testing cost are generally accepted if a doctor or the health department approves a test. There are criteria for this: for example, your own symptoms of illness or contact with infected people.

The Rapid test costs are adopted if a test corresponds to the test strategy. These are currently the tests in old people's and nursing homes, in clinics and in schools. They are carried out by trained personnel. The costs can only be covered for the rapid tests that are listed by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). The list is created using minimum criteria and based on manufacturer information. The minimum criteria are developed and checked by the Paul Ehrlich Institute with the Robert Koch Institute.

At Self-tests it is not yet planned to assume the costs.

What role do rapid tests play in the national test strategy?

According to the applicable national test strategy, rapid antigen tests are currently used in old people's and nursing homes, in clinics and also in schools. They are picked up there by trained staff. There are no costs for the tested.

In their deliberations on March 3, 2021, the federal and state governments agreed that significantly more rapid tests will be used in the future. The federal states are supposed to use test concepts to ensure that the staff in schools and childcare as well as all pupils are offered at least one free quick test per week of attendance.

In addition, all citizens can a free rapid test at least once a week have it done. The federal states and municipalities take care of the implementation, for example by setting up municipal test centers. The federal government bears the costs for these tests.

Read more about corona tests onwww.z zusammen gegencorona.deand atFederal Ministry of Health. You can find them here Coronavirus test regulation from March 8, 2021.

Source: Federal Ministry of Health / Press and Information Office of the Federal Government