Corona test via smartphone: This is how video evidence works

IMore and more test centers are closing. How and where can I, as a non-vaccinated and non-recovered person, get a certified coronavirus test certificate for dining out or going to the football stadium? Wouldn’t it be convenient if that could be done at home?

In fact, there are providers who offer video-monitored self-tests. The principle: You obtain an approved self-test and do it in front of the smartphone camera that is switched on. Trained people look at it, check it and, if everything was OK, send the – hopefully negative – test certificate.

So simple, so obvious. But does it also work smoothly? And are the certificates recognized everywhere? So much in advance: When it comes to the question of how much a video test certificate is worth, the providers and the Federal Ministry of Health have different views.

Corona video tests solve a problem

In and of themselves, the video-monitored tests solve a problem. Because the self-tests that are available in drugstores, pharmacies or supermarkets are permitted. But used alone, the result is nothing more than information for yourself. It is not enough to just show a test cassette as official evidence that gives access somewhere. It needs a certificate.

The video-monitored tests are not free. With the provider “covidtestonline”, for example, it costs 14.90 euros, with competitor “Freetogo” 19.99 euros.

The cost of buying the self-test is also added, but it is manageable: some of the tests are available from discounters for less than one euro. You can look in lists to see which rapid antigen tests the providers accept.

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The prices for the video-monitored tests are therefore in the lower range of what self-payers would have to pay for rapid tests, for example in the test center. According to the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center, they cost between around 18 and 40 euros there.

And since October 11th, almost everyone has to pay for that, because the offer of free citizen tests for everyone is over. The tests are only free for certain groups of people, such as children up to the age of twelve.

If you have to pay yourself anyway, you might prefer to save yourself the trip to the test center in the future and do the quick test at home. Does that also work smoothly?

Practice test 1: Difficulties with attitude

You have to take some time for the test at home. At “covidtestonline” the certificate can be bought quickly and a code will be sent by email with which the test can be started. After entering personal data and the ID number, there is a short digital identity check, then off you go.

With this provider you have to film the entire course of the test. So I take the smartphone and at first I have problems aligning the camera so that I am in the picture – because I don’t have a tripod and can’t select the front camera to take the picture. This way I cannot see the screen and consequently cannot check whether the test materials and myself can always be seen clearly.

But at some point everything is aligned and the recording begins. Everything is recorded, from unpacking the test kit to taking the smear and developing the test strips. At the end you hold the cassette with the result in front of the camera for five seconds. All in all, you record around 20 minutes of video.

The check at the video test provider

Does anyone really look at it in its entirety? Yes, but the 15 minute waiting time until the test result is unwound faster, says Timo Scharpenberg, managing director of the company Coteon, which operates the “covidtestonline” portal. However, the winding is not too fast so that a possible exchange of the test cassette does not go unnoticed. Otherwise it would be easy to cheat.

In my case, everything seems to have worked out. A good quarter of an hour after the test, the result and certificate will be sent to you by email. In addition to German, you can choose two other languages. According to the provider, it takes a maximum of an hour to receive a message. Trained workers are on duty from 6 a.m. to midnight.

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According to the provider, things don’t always run as smoothly as with me. “We don’t wave everyone through,” says Scharpenberg. The rejection rate is six to nine percent.

A common mistake is that the customer stops the recording too early and does not wait for the quarter of an hour to develop the test strips. At least: Then there is a free second attempt.

Practical test II: Corona video test with instructions

The “freetogo” app, which is backed by a start-up from the University of Potsdam, takes a different approach. Here the test takes place partly under supervision: You make a video phone call with a person who assists and observes the testing. This is nice in that you don’t have to look at the instructions every step of the way. The conversation ends after the sample solution has been trickled onto the test cassette.

So that the test cassette cannot simply be exchanged for another one with a negative result, it had to be labeled with a number sent to it and photographed before the telephone call. The person on the other end of the line also checks the number.

Proof at home: This is how video-monitored rapid tests work

The author’s test result is displayed in the “freetogo” app

Source: dpa-tmn / Zacharie Scheurer

As soon as the 15 minute development time for the test strips is over, the test cassette has to be photographed again – in such a way that the result and the number written down are clearly visible. Shortly after sending the “proof photo” in the app, the test certificate arrived in the e-mail inbox.

The bottom line is that this version of the video test also worked well, even though the implementation in the app was unhealthy in some places.

Corona video tests are a niche

Compared to the speed in a test center – provided everything goes smoothly there – testing with video recording takes longer at home. But there is also no need to go to the test center.

The two providers do not give exact figures on how many people have already used their offer. Scharpenberg speaks of tens of thousands, “Freetogo” of a five-digit number of users.

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A student takes a self-test

For comparison: In June and August 2021 alone, according to figures from the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, more than 46 million citizen tests were billed nationwide. So the video tests are a niche. To be fair, it has to be noted that they were usually always paid for and did not count as free citizen tests.

If the citizens’ tests are no longer paid for by the state for most people and more and more test centers close, the offer could become more attractive for some people. “I do believe that demand could then increase,” says Scharpenberg.

Who are the video tests for?

According to him, so far, many users have done the tests while traveling, for example. Abroad, this is certainly more convenient than looking for a test site. At “covidtestonline” you can have the certificates sent to you in different languages.

The co-founder and boss of the “freetogo” app, Matthias Weingärtner, sees the benefits of video tests for vacationers as well, but also in other areas: for example, if someone does not have a test center nearby or if they are afraid of an increased risk of infection Test center shy.

Different opinions on corona video tests

The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) is critical of these digital test options. Thorough monitoring of the testing via video is only possible to a limited extent, according to the request. According to the ministry, the certificates of the providers of video-monitored tests do not qualify as official certificates.

In ministry language it sounds like this: “If the testing on which the test evidence is based was carried out by means of video-monitored self-testing, no valid test evidence within the meaning of the Protection Exemption Ordinance can be created.” , Paragraph 1 of the Test Ordinance was made.

The providers see it differently. The company Coteon, which is behind “covidtestonline”, relies on two of its own legal opinions by the law firm Fieldfisher and the law firm KPMG Law. These come to the conclusion that the evidence corresponds to the exemption regulation.

The acceptance of the certificates

The certificate fulfills European requirements and is equivalent to a certificate from the test center, writes “covidtestonline” on its website. The online process was checked by Tüv Rheinland and confirmed as functional and safe.

“Freetogo” boss Weingärtner writes on the question of where the certificate is accepted everywhere: “Basically, our certificate is recognized throughout Europe where a rapid antigen test is accepted. We recommend our customers to import the result into the Corona-Warn-App and to prove it. “

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Coteon managing director Scharpenberg points to collaborations with companies that fully recognize the certificate, including Lufthansa and the ferry company Stena Lines.

Conclusion: The ministry says no, the providers say yes. In the end, the question is how exactly the certificate is viewed in the cinema or restaurant. It is important that the self-test was carried out correctly so that the result is as reliable as possible – and video monitoring should ensure that.

From now on, corona rapid tests are usually chargeable

From now on, corona rapid tests cost money. This can quickly become expensive, especially for those who have not been vaccinated. You can find out where you can still be tested and who can still get your test free of charge here.

Source: WORLD / Nadine Jantz



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