Paid PCR tests cause political turmoil in Greece

The conservative New Democracy government (EPP) decided to cap the price of PCR tests to €47, rejecting a proposal by the opposition and the national medical association to distribute them for free to the public. [Shutterstock/DroneworX TS]

The opposition and medical associations have mounted pressure on the Greek government to distribute free PCR tests for people, as Greeks seem to be the only EU citizens who still pay to get a molecular test.

The conservative New Democracy government (EPP) decided to cap the price of PCR tests to €47, rejecting a proposal by the opposition and the national medical association to distribute them for free to the public.

The Mediterranean country is facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, and citizens are urged to get tested.

But it has been noticed that PCR test prices have skyrocketed. Greek media reported that the price of a PCR test by the same company in Cyprus costs €25 while in Greece it is €60.

The main opposition Syriza party (EU Left), said the government’s decision to cap PCR tests’ price is a joke, saying the price is enormously high for Greek households. The leftist party also claims that the government is winking at private diagnostic centres.

However, the same position was expressed by lawmaker Babis Papadimitriou, who belongs to the ruling party.

Contacted by EURACTIV.gr, sources from the health ministry said PCR and rapid tests are performed free of charge in state healthcare structures.

The same sources added that more than €300 million had been allocated for free tests (self, rapid, PCR) while Greece ranks 4th at the EU level regarding the testing rate.

EURACTIV.gr confirmed that indeed there are some state centres for free PCR tests. Still, they are limited, and it is impossible for people to get tested as they will have to queue for hours in crowded places, increasing the possibility of infection.

In addition, a source explained that state hospitals prefer to keep the PCR tests only for those who are about to be hospitalised due to COVID.

So, in practice, all Greek citizens go to private laboratories and therefore pay for PCR tests causing a severe financial burden.

What’s happening in other countries

However, in the rest of Europe, PCR test are granted for free if someone has COVID symptoms or get a prescription from a doctor.

In Poland, if recommended by a doctor it’s free. Otherwise, it costs between €90-110.

In Italy, if one has symptoms, the doctor will prescribe you a test which is also for free. PCR tests are paid for by citizens only if they need to travel or have contact with a person who has tested positive.

Similarly, in Germany, PCR tests are free when recommended by a doctor in case of symptoms. Otherwise, a PCR test with a result in 24h costs between €35 to €69.

In Austria, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Albania, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, PCR tests are free if prescribed by a doctor.

In Portugal, Switzerland and the UK, tests are paid by the government if you have symptoms or have been in contact with a confirmed COVID case.

In France, PCR tests are free if:

– the individual has symptoms (under a doctor’s prescription)

– is flagged as contact case by regional services

– is fully vaccinated or can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons

– is under 18

– has recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months

EURACTIV France reports that this scheme mainly targets anti-vaxxers who must pay €43,89 for a PCR or about €25-30 for an antigenic one (depending on where and when they do it).

Slovakia still offers free PCR tests, officially for those, who return from abroad, interact with someone positive or experience symptoms, which need to be indicated while applying online for the test. However, the state system may grant you the date for testing a bit later than you would want; therefore many choose to use commercially available testing centres that offer tests for a price starting from €35.

(Edited by Alice Taylor)

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