Free Covid tests will 'save future costs,' says Green Party

Free Covid tests will 'save future costs,' says Green Party
Credit: Belga

The French-speaking Green party Ecolo will once again be calling for the government to provide free coronavirus self-tests during the Consultative Committee on Wednesday.

Ecolo party member and Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet repeated his previous call for free tests on Twitter on Tuesday, arguing that by making self-testing more accessible or free, the government will make it possible for people to get tested more regularly.

"More accessible self-tests can help protect ourselves and our loved ones, thus reducing the burden on hospitals, limiting the death toll and preventing people from delaying care," Gilkinet said on the social media platform.

Gilkinet described this measure as an investment that helps to keep schools open and cultural and socio-economic sectors functioning, which will "save us huge future costs."

Belgian virologist Steven Van Gucht has agreed that self-tests could be a good solution to safely get together with friends and family for the holidays but stressed that this will be difficult to implement as the cost for the tests would put some people off.

Self-tests costs around €8 in pharmacies, and while cheaper ones from €3 each can be found in some supermarkets and drugstores, this is still enough to deter some people with a low income or those with a large family.

"And that can be a barrier. So it would not be bad if they were made available free of charge. Because the fact is: the more often people test themselves, the more people can do that test, the more effective it is," he told VRT News.

(Un)limited tests?

Gilkinet will be pushing for free tests after already requesting them before the Consultative Committee of 26 November. He will again make the case for them during Wednesday's Consultative Committee when Belgium's core cabinet is expected to discuss new measures needed as the number of coronavirus cases with the Omicron variant is surging.

The far-left party PVDA is calling on the government to offer each citizen two to three self-tests for the festive season.

The party's Sofie Merckx announced that she would table an amendment to the law to offer three free self-tests, which Ecolo agrees with, but it intends to make this change via the Consultative Committee.

Free self-tests will be rolled out in the United States during the Christmas festivities to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. The US authorities announced on Tuesday that 500 million free coronavirus tests will be distributed.

In the United Kingdom, citizens can order seven self-tests for free every day via the National Health Service.

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