All nursing home staff members in Wallonia will be screened weekly for the new coronavirus with saliva-based tests, regional officials said Friday.
The French-speaking region will pump €7 million in the wide-spread testing scheme, which mirrors a weekly screening plan launched by the University of Liège (ULiège) in September.
Launched on Friday after a week-long pilot test, some 32,000 nursing and care home employees will be tested for the virus each week.
The saliva tests were developed by researchers at ULiège for a mass-screening campaign the university launched just days after the start of the new academic year.
The university’s saliva tests consist of individual testing kits that allow users to collect a sample of their own saliva in a receptacle which is then shipped to the central laboratories for standard PCR analysis.
While the saliva-based testing is less sensitive than nose or throat swabs the university said that the regular nature of the screening would allow officials to draw consistent results from the tests.
All 602 nursing homes in the southern Belgian region, which was heavily impacted by the second wave of the pandemic, took part on day one of the mass screening scheme on Friday.
The campaign’s launch comes after the creation a regional coronavirus crisis unit in late October as the regional government doubled down on its response to the pandemic as it called for stern and concerted action at a national level.
The move by Wallonia comes after Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced that millions of rapid tests ordered by the federal government will not be going to nursing homes since the consequences in case of a false result were too big.
The Brussels Times