Free self-tests for families with school-aged children, MPs urge

Free self-tests for families with school-aged children, MPs urge
Credit: Belga

Several parties in the Flemish Parliament, including the greens (Groen) and the socialists (Vooruit), are calling on the Government to make self-tests available free of charge to families with children that go to school.

The decision to relax the testing and quarantine measures in the education sector goes hand in hand with a strong recommendation from education ministers that all primary and secondary school children take a self-test once a week.

In light of this, free self-tests should be made available to families with school-aged children, argued Flemish green MP Celia Groothedde. “A possible alternative could be that children are tested at school. That way, every child is equal before the law and you still have some protection with the much more lenient testing strategy.”

Groothedde stressed that “families in poverty cannot simply cough up the money for a rapid test every week.”

While families in poverty can purchase the tests at a lower rate of €1, the Flemish Government has hardly promoted this arrangement, Groothedde asserted, adding that the social rate is still too high.

“At a reduced rate, one self-test per week costs the same as two loaves of bread per month,” she said on Twitter. “At full price, it equals two weeks of food.”

She stressed that families in poverty risk more complications and more deaths from Covid-19, as well as having more at-risk patients and finding it harder to isolate.

Expecting a clear testing policy for schools

The socialist Vooruit party also stated that self-testing should be made more easily available to parents with school-aged children. “The Minister of Education should take his responsibility to ensure that schools can remain open,” Flemish MP for Vooruit Hannelore Goeman said in Parliament on Thursday.

“We expect the minister to come up with a clear testing strategy for education and provide a basis of self-testing for every school,” she added. “That way, schools can help parents who cannot easily buy a self-test for all their children.”

On Wednesday, Education Minister Ben Weyts stressed that his comments about having children take a self-test every week were just a recommendation rather than an obligation. Still, the Consultative Committee meeting today is expected to discuss a proper regulation regarding self-tests for school-going children.

The Committee will hold a press conference to announce the latest changes from 14:30, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

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