As part of the adapted national coronavirus testing strategy, the government of Belgium’s German-speaking Community is providing schools with free self-tests.
Each student, teacher and kindergarten staff member will receive a free self-test each week, Belga news agency reports.
The community’s Education Minister Lydia Klinkenberg stated that the measure will remain in place until the Carnival holidays, which will be at the start of March.
It reportedly covers teaching staff at all levels, including higher education and professional training establishments, as well as primary, secondary, and vocational students, all of whom are invited, but not required, to do a self-test every Monday morning before going to school.
“We are also providing schools and nurseries with tests for kindergarten children or children under the age of three if parents also want to have the younger ones tested,” Klinkenberg’s cabinet stated.
This provision of free tests is aimed at fighting the spread of the virus while keeping schools open and guaranteeing that they are able to function well.
Political indecision in other regions
Ahead of the reopening of schools on Monday 10 January and in light of the decision to relax the testing and quarantine measures in the education sector, Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts and Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke called for (weekly) self-tests among pupils to keep schools open as long as possible.
However, no government was willing to offer such free self-tests, which usually cost around €3 in supermarkets and between €5 and €8 in pharmacies.
Vandenbroucke stated the Federal Government would not be able to offer the tests to families with school-aged children for free as it already spends millions per week on free PCR tests but stressed that nothing is stopping local authorities or the Education Ministry from buying a lot of tests and giving them out for free.
As a result of the political indecision on who will foot the cost of these tests, despite various parties calling on the government to provide them free of charge, just 8% of Belgian parents with children in primary and secondary education stated they plan to have them take a self-test every week.