'Summer holidays may not be possible' if testing capacity doesn't improve, expert warns

'Summer holidays may not be possible' if testing capacity doesn't improve, expert warns
Credit: Belga

If Belgium's testing capacity doesn't improve by the summer, many people in Belgium may not be able to go on holiday, according to Professor Dirk Devroey, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Brussels (VUB).

The main concern expressed by Devroey is the lack of staff to carry out all the coronavirus tests and the long waiting times which could result from this problem.

"If we have to test everyone who goes on holiday on departure and return, then we will have a huge capacity shortage. We don't know where to get doctors and nurses to do more testing," Devroey told Het Laatste Nieuws.

He added that people may become impatient, and that "some travellers not receiving the result of their coronavirus test in time, will not be able to go on holiday as planned."

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Both the coronavirus testing and vaccination centres need to be staffed, Devroey highlighted, saying that there was already a shortage of doctors and nurses before the crisis and that this already scarce staff must now be divided across both types of centres.

Summer plans

Travelling abroad has been possible again since the non-essential travel ban was lifted, and relaxations for the summer, announced by the Consultative Committee last week, include the organisation of summer festivals and larger outdoor events.

As part of the strict follow-up measures which replaced the ban, people will have to be tested before departure and upon return in most cases.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has also said that people would only be allowed to attend if they are vaccinated or test negative, meaning the demand for testing will further increase.

Belgian doctors have also expressed concern that they will not be able to test unvaccinated people who want to travel this summer, and have stressed that it is not their "main task."

“We are already noticing in the GP practices that there is a lot of demand for taking tests for travelling, and we do it, but actually it is not the GP’s job to take tests for travellers. We have to deal with sick patients or people who need help," said Roel Van Giel, chair of GP association Domus Medica.

Even if the European "Digital Green Certificate", a pass to reaffirm the right to free movement in Europe during the pandemic, is finalised on time, this will also in part rely on proof of a recent negative test result if a person is not vaccinated or doesn't have proof they have been infected and recovered from the virus.

The European Parliament, Council and Commission negotiators will meet on Tuesday to try to conclude a deal aimed at launching the pass before the summer tourist season.

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