Belgium: No COVID-19 symptoms, no test?

Under the current regime, if a person has been in close contact with an infected or upon return from a red zone from abroad, it had to be tested for COVID-19. [Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis]

Belgium’s health ministers are set to adjust the COVID-19 test strategy in a bid to reduce long waiting times. According to the new system, those with no symptoms will no longer be tested, even if they had contact with a person infected with the virus.

Under the current regime, if a person has been in close contact with an infected person or upon return from a red zone from abroad, they had to be tested for COVID-19.

These testing circumstances will now be cancelled for those who show no COVID-19 symptoms in order to reduce the pressure on test laboratories, reports VRT Niews.

“From now on people will give priority to people with symptoms”, virologist Steven Van Gucht, of the scientific institute Sciensano confirmed.

However, going to quarantine will still be mandatory, although it might be extended from 7 to 10 days.

“Until now, the high-risk contacts were tested without symptoms, on day 5 after the last exposure. If that test was negative, they could be quarantined on day 7. So that test is now going to be dropped, but that means that the 7-day quarantine will probably have to be extended,” Van Gucht said.

According to the virologist, the new strategy is necessary to reduce the pressure in test laboratories, because “they can no longer follow up”.

“We are currently doing more than 60,000 tests per day, that is at or even over the limit of the laboratories,” Van Gucht said. “If we drop the testing of high-risk contacts, then that is 38% fewer tests that have to be performed and we have maximum focus on rapid testing of people with symptoms.”

(Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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