Could free Covid-19 tests be coming to an end in Austria?

Could free Covid-19 tests be coming to an end in Austria?
A testing centre in Vienna. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP
The Austrian Medical Chamber is calling for an end to free Covid-19 tests in the coming months as the vaccination roll-out continues.

President of the Medical Association, Thomas Szekeres, said people that don’t want to be vaccinated but still visit restaurants or attend events, should pay for a Covid-19 test themselves, Der Standard reports.

Szekeres said everyone now has the opportunity to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and providing ongoing free tests is expensive.

Other leading figures in favour of ending free tests are Christoph Reisner, President of the Lower Austrian Medical Chamber, and Peter Lehner (ÖVP), Chairman of Social Insurance for the Self Employed (SVS) and Co-chair of the Conference of Social Insurance Agencies.

However, there have also been calls for exceptions for the socially disadvantaged or for those who cannot be vaccinated, if free Covid-19 tests are no longer available in the future.

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Currently, people living in Austria can access free tests at testing stations and pharmacies throughout the country, with the state picking up the tab for the cost.

Austria is one of the leading countries for offering free tests to citizens and residents. The cost of providing a PCR test is around €60.

Support for the end to free testing is mostly coming from ÖVP-governed federal states, including Upper Austria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Styria.

Governor of Tyrol, Günther Platter (ÖVP), said a long-term plan of “everything is always free” is not feasible.

Governor of Vorarlberg, Markus Wallner (ÖVP), also called for an end to free tests, but said testing on a large scale is effective for dealing with outbreaks and should be taken into account in the autumn.

The provincial governments in Salzburg and Lower Austria have reacted more cautiously to the suggestions. Authorities in Vienna, Carinthia and Burgenland rejected an end to free tests.

Vienna City Councilor for Health, Peter Hacker (SPÖ), said PCR tests are an important part of Vienna’s screening programme and provide information about the development of the pandemic.

READ MORE: What will the rules be for children returning to school in Austria this autumn?


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