The Bundestag is to expand testing, provide more compensation to health care workers, and make more flu vaccines available. DW looks at a rundown of the details.
Germany's Parliament, the Bundestag, passed a new raft of laws on Thursday to further defend the public against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the key measures:
The amount of testing being carried out will be widely expanded, especially in care homes or hospitals. Even asymptomatic individuals who suspect they have the virus or have come into contact with an infected person will be granted a test, so as to stop the chain of infection before it spreads further.
Public health insurance companies will also be compelled to cover the cost of the test for their customers. They will also have to pay for recovered patients to be tested for antibodies after they recover. Recently, the umbrella organization for Germany's public insurance companies said that they will need a boost in federal funding to cover the new costs they are facing or risk financial ruin.
From now on health authorities will also be compelled to report negative test results and how many patients are considered cured, so that the government can better keep track of how many people have recovered nationwide.
Health care workers
Before the pandemic, Germany had a shortage of care workers and nurses, particularly in nursing homes, largely due to relatively low wages. Now, nurses and care workers are set to receive a one-time bonus of €1,000 ($1,080), with state governments and employers encouraged to increase this sum to €1,500. This sum will go to full-time workers as well as part-time employees and trainees.
On top of this, an extra €50 million is being allocated to the country's 375 branches of health care authorities for better equipment and more up-to-date technology.
Until now, doctors have only been able to procure a limited amount of flu vaccines every year for their patients, as health insurance companies would only cover the cost for those deemed to have a higher necessity for immunization. Now, health insurers will have to make the vaccines more widely available. The government's goal is to protect the health care system by not overburdening it with flu patients next fall and winter.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has said that any plans to issue so-called "immunity certificates" based on antibody tests has been put on hold. So far, scientists have not come far enough in their research to say how long on average a recovered patient possesses antibodies, or how high an antibody count a person needs in order to be immune to COVID-19.
"I think it is right to remove the proposal from the current emergency legislation. There has been understandable criticism, which shows me that, as a society, we need more time to debate this issue," Spahn said. However, he reiterated that the certificates would be necessary in the longterm.
es/rt (KNA, dpa)