Coronavirus: Belgium's top university launches test & tracing strategy

Coronavirus: Belgium's top university launches test & tracing strategy
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Belgium's top university has set up an internal coronavirus test and trace system capable of testing up to 300 students every day.

Officials at KU Leuven university said that they wanted to prevent overwhelming doctors and medical facilities in the small city, whose populations swells as students, who make up to a third of the population, flow back to town in September.

"The Leuven higher education institutions want to fully assume their responsibilities and, in this way, prevent the spread of the virus among this large group of young and active people," Rector Luc Sels said in a press release.

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The new testing centre will open from Monday and will test any student who "has mild symptoms, has recently had a high-risk contact or has recently stayed in a high-risk area" for free.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 "can expect to be contacted by a physician and their institution's contact tracking team within 48 hours."

The university's new test and trace strategy will also be set up for students in the associated University Colleges Leuven-Limburg and the LUCA School of Arts, which has campuses in Brussels and in Ghent.

Medical students will staff the new testing centre and aim to conduct more than 300 tests per day, according to the press statement, which will then be analysed in the university's lab, ran by virologist and top government advisor Marc Van Ranst.

The testing and tracing system by KU Leuven will run parallel to that set up by the regional Flemish government, with the university stressing that it will only keep tabs on students who come get tested at the centre on campus.

"Speed ​​and tracking are the keywords here," Sels said. "If we manage to quickly locate people who do infect others, then together we can get on top of the virus."

KU Leuven is the second university in the country to launch its own Covid-19 screening strategy in efforts to keep cases among students under controls.

At the end of September, the University of Liège (ULiège) launched a mass campaign to get students to self-screen themselves for the virus using saliva-based tests.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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