Belgium should make testing people for the new coronavirus its main priority and set up testing centres in airports and major train stations, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said.
"You can perfectly well open testing centres in [Brussels'] Zaventem airport and in the major train stations," Close said in an interview with La Libre published on Tuesday.
"As soon as you arrive at a station or get off the plane, the screening takes place. It may take 10 to 15 minutes, but ensures clarity for citizens."
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In the interview, the mayor of the City of Brussels said that Belgium's testing and tracing approach meant it was much too complex for citizens to get tested for the novel virus.
"Compared to abroad, it is all too cumbersome here. In other countries, you can get tested anywhere and at any time, regardless of whether you are a resident of the country in question," he said.
The number of necessary conditions to be met and steps to be taken in order to access a test also means that, even for Belgian residents, getting tested "takes too long and is too complicated," he added.
"You have to fill in a form for every small step, the doctor has to write a sick none, if there is none, you have to go to the emergency services — to sum up, it all takes too long and is too complicated."
The Brussels-Capital Region has created a list of centres which have opened access to testing for people who do not have any symptoms or who wish to get tested before going abroad, but without a doctors note, the social security system doesn't cover the costs of the test, erecting a potential new barrier to testing for many unable to foot the bill by themselves.
Close stressed that, as officials across Belgium's different governments race to prevent rising infection rates from flaring up further, the country should heed experts' advice and test people massively for the virus.
"I support the idea of a smart strategy, but Belgium should not pretend to be smarter than the rest of the world," he said.
"Neighbouring countries, and others in Europe, are screening much more widely and the World Health Organisation is also calling for massive testing — we can't do the impossible, but we should not fool citizens," he said.
The Brussels Times