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Covid screening station. Photo credit: JC Gellidon

Germany: Massive fraud in Covid-19 screening tests suspected

A scandal over Covid-19 testing centres has erupted in Germany. Many testing establishments make false declarations to obtain undue reimbursements from the government. Covid-19 screening tests are mandatory in Germany for anyone wishing to go to a bar, cafe or restaurant as well as a store or a municipal swimming pool.

Published: June 4, 2021, 2:11 pm

    Berlin

    New federal legislation made these tests free in March 2021 with the aim of stepping up the screening campaign. A reimbursement is thus provided for screening centres, with up to 18 euros per test. The German media, however, questioned the lack of control of the tests carried out.

    The newspaper Tagesspiegel thus denounced the ease with which it was possible to obtain approval, which in turn resulted in a multiplication of these centres. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the Ministry of Health has for example identified more than 8000 and 1200 for the city of Berlin alone.

    Screening centres do not have to indicate the name or profile of people coming for screening. “It is enough that they transmit the number of tests, without any proof, and they receive the transfer of money shortly after,” according to a joint investigation of the public televisions NDR and WDR, with the daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which had launched the investigation.

    Several probes have thus been launched into screening centres suspected of inflating their figures in order to obtain undue reimbursements from the German state. “Those who use the pandemic to get rich criminally should be ashamed,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn tweeted on May 29.

    To detect irregularities, the journalists counted the people who came to be tested in several places in order to compare them with the figures transmitted to the authorities. The result: for only a hundred screenings carried out, one centre declared 422; elsewhere, instead of 550, the company said it had tested 1743 people in a day.

    This prompted several prosecutors to react. In Bochum they raided the premises of a private centre as well as in Lübeck. Investigations for “fraud” relating to the “realization and invoicing of rapid tests” have been opened, according to the weekly WirtschaftsWoche . The German Minister of Health said that more controls would be carried out to prevent some “taking advantage” of the “necessary pragmatism” of testing.

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