Bus offering 'rapid coronavirus tests' to Flemish companies deemed illegal

Bus offering 'rapid coronavirus tests' to Flemish companies deemed illegal
© Belga

A coronavirus testing bus put into circulation by an insurance and a travel company in Flanders has been deemed illegal by regional health authorities.

On Monday, the Flemish Agency for Care and Health said that the company behind the bus had not sought regulatory approval, deeming it illegal.

The bus had already come under fire from GPs in the Flemish province, with 180 of them coming out against it saying its rapid-result model risked providing a false sense of safety.

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"When you get a negative test [from the bus] it can give a false sense of certainty," Dr. Karel De Crem, head of a doctors association in the region, told VRT.

"GPs also know better than anyone when and how tests should be performed. Simply starting a testing centre running parallel to government initiatives is not possible."

Joris Moonens, the spokesperson for the Care and Health Agency, echoed GPs' concerns and also said that the bus disrupted Belgium's national testing strategy.

"This rapid test can send the wrong signal to companies," Moonens said. "If you had a high-risk contact with a colleague who tested positive, you have to quarantine for ten days, regardless of the results of a rapid test."

In circulation for about a week, the "rapid test" bus has been making the rounds of companies in the province of East Flanders, offering 20-minute tests for €80 plus VAT.

The Sneltestbus (rapid test bus in Dutch) was launched jointly by Flemish banking and insurance company Solvas and tour operator Weidel Tours, using rapid antigen tests developed by US company Abbott.

Their express testing lab was set up inside a Weidel Tours bus and launched following the shift in Belgium's testing strategy to no longer screen people without symptoms, who had to replace the test with a quarantine period.

In a statement on their website, the entrepreneurs behind the bus said their mobile lab aimed to ease pressure on business owners who wanted to "avoid having [their] entire company in quarantine."

Moonens said that agency had reached out to the companies behind the bus.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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