All coronavirus testing centres in the city of Liège reached full capacity early on Tuesday morning, with residents fuming after being turned away and staff buckling under the pressure from growing demand.
Two testing centres for asymptomatic patients in the city, the capital of the eponymous Walloon province, began turning away patients just hours after opening.
The testing site at the Citadelle regional hospital (CHR de la Citadelle) opened at 7:30 in the morning but stewards hired to manage the flows of people closed down the entrance to the parking-lot testing site at 9:30 AM.
Residents looking to get tested reporter “ridiculous” lines outside either testing centre and expressed frustration that, despite feeling sick and being in line before dawn, they could not get tested.
“I feel sick. Yesterday I went to four different testing centres,” one driver said, adding that she had been in line for more than an hour and a half on Tuesday but still got turned away.
Another resident in the same testing said that in the MontLégia testing centre, located a few kilometres away, vehicles faced waiting times of up to five hours.
“It is ridiculous, there is a line since 6:00 AM this morning,” the man told RTL reporters, after a steward in the Citadelle site suggested he go there.
“We try to send them elsewhere but they tell us themselves that that is where they come from and that it is shut down as well,” said steward Jean-Marie Schmetz before adding with a sigh: “We are doing what we can… but it’s not easy.”
Nurses at La Citadelle also said that they were doing tests back to back as people flowed in non-stop, adding that they did not even have time to take a pause.
The third testing site in the city’s university hospital (CHU Liège) is since Monday only testing patients who have symptoms and a medical prescription, after it was overwhelmed by an influx of crowds seeking a test last week, according to RTL.
Coronavirus infections have been steadily rising in the Walloon region with two provinces on Tuesday announcing they would put residents under a curfew for at least two weeks.
Staff in the testing sites are calling for increased resources from federal authorities and for better coordination in order to get testing capacities running smoothly, as a steep rise in new infections continues to grip southern Belgium.