Claims about German Test and Trace costs completely wrong

31 March 2022
What was claimed

Germany spent less than £1 billion on their track and trace system.

Our verdict

False. We don’t know how much Germany spent in total, but the federal government’s cost of rapid tests alone far exceeds £1 billion.

What was claimed

The UK spent £37 billion on Test and Trace.

Our verdict

False. This is the budget for NHS Test and Trace over two years, not the spend. The programme underspent by £8 billion in its first year.

What was claimed

Test and Trace ran out of money.

Our verdict

False. There is no evidence Test and Trace, which ran significantly under-budget in 2020/21, “ran out of money”.

Various posts on Facebook claim that while Germany spent less than £1 billion on their Covid-19 track and trace system, the UK spent £37 billion “and ran out of money”.

This is all false.

In contrast to NHS Test and Trace, which is centrally-funded, the cost of Covid-19 testing and contact tracing in Germany is shared between the federal government, state governments and local health authorities, and we simply don’t know what it all adds up to.

But we know for certain it has cost more than £1 billion. In August 2021, it was reported that the German federal government had spent €3.7 billion (£3.2 billion) on rapid Covid-19 tests over the previous six months, to say nothing of other costs incurred since then or in 2020. 

We’ve written more about the estimated costs of Germany’s test and trace system previously.

The UK also didn’t actually spend £37 billion. Test and Trace was initially given a budget of  £22 billion in 2020/21 and £15 billion in 2021/22, which adds up to £37 billion.

However, in 2020/21 it actually spent £13.5 billion. We don’t know how much was spent in 2021/22 yet, but the budget was revised down to £14 billion

The claim that Test and Trace, which underspent in its first year by around £8 billion, “ran out of money” is not backed up by any evidence we’ve seen.

Misleading claims about the cost of the UK’s Covid-19 test and trace programme have been common throughout the pandemic and often fail to compare like-with-like. 

For example, we have checked the false claim that the Irish system cost less than £1 million, which would put the cost per head at well under £1. In fact this was just the cost of developing Ireland’s Covid-19 contact tracing app alone. 

Image courtesy of Michael Beim via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the cost of German Covid-19 testing and tracing is wrong, the cost of NHS Test and Trace is wrong, and it’s wrong to claim NHS Test and Trace ran out of money.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.