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Coronavirus

Germany Is Counting on a New Type of Test to Avoid Closing Nursing Homes to Visitors

November 3, 2020

BERLIN — Germany is counting on a new type of test to avoid closing nursing homes to visitors, a move that caused considerable anguish among residents and relatives in the spring.

So-called antigen tests, which look for a specific protein on the virus, were first launched months ago. They are cheap and fast, but experts said at the time they are also less accurate than the standard PCR test, which detects even the tiniest genetic trace of the virus.

Still, Germany — which has managed to contain the spread of the outbreak better than many of its neighbors — announced recently that it is bulk-buying millions of antigen tests each month.

“We have a new strategy,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “We can now basically perform rapid tests on visitors to nursing and care homes.”

Nursing homes will receive up to 20 free monthly tests per resident. These can be used to test patients, staff and — crucially — visiting relatives, who might be unwitting carriers of the virus.

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