German Virus Test Kits Run Low as People Stock Up for Next Wave
(Bloomberg) -- Germans are feverishly snapping up Covid-19 test kits at drug stores and pharmacies as the country buckles under soaring infection rates and the government tightens the rules to access shops, restaurants and gyms.
Home-use infection tests that provide a rapid read-out via a nasal swab were hard to get in recent days. Major drug stores like Dirk Rossmann GmbH and DM Drogerie Markt GmbH had temporarily sold out online, and many pharmacies said they’ve been overrun by unprecedented demand for the kits, which usually retail for as little as 1.50 euros ($1.70) each.
The rush for kits is reminiscent of last year’s frantic bulk purchases of toilet paper, face masks and dried pasta as Germany headed into its first lockdown.
The soaring infections -- Germany recorded more than 30,000 new cases on Monday -- has caught many off guard, after relatively low numbers and an improving vaccination campaign had given rise to optimism that the pandemic was essentially over.
“These test kits were gathering dust on the shelves just a few weeks ago, so many producers reduced their output,” said Gabriele Koehne, a spokeswoman for the German association of the diagnostics industry in Berlin. “It’s a simple question of supply and demand,” and rebooting production to the previously high levels might take several weeks, she said.
Unlike neighboring Austria, Germany hasn’t imposed a nationwide lockdown or mandatory vaccines to battle the fourth wave of infections.
But the government has demanded stricter public controls that grant access only to those who are either recovered from a previous coronavirus infection or carry proof of vaccination. In regions with particularly high virus rates, some shops and restaurants require additional tests as a safety measure.
There’s also the option of using government-funded public test centers, though many of these were dismantled in recent months as vaccines gained traction. Still, German vaccination rates lag behind those of countries like Portugal or Italy.
While test-kit demand has surged, pharmacies are confident that they can overcome the bottleneck.
“This is a pretty common phenomenon when demand goes from very low to very high in a very short space of time,” said Stefan Schmidt from the Federation of Berlin pharmacists. “It’s up to each pharmacy to work through supply issues, and we’d think that selling in reasonable quantities to each buyers will help alleviate the shortage.”
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