Extra Covid testing centres for holidaymakers open in Antwerp
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Extra Covid testing centres for holidaymakers open in Antwerp

Credit: Frank Toussaint/UZA

On 21 June, the University Hospital of Antwerp (UZA) is opening Covid-19 test centres for people wanting to go on holiday on two of its campuses, to relieve the growing burden on existing centres and GPs.

One centre will open on the campus of Edegem, just outside of Antwerp City, and will be easily accessible, located between the hospital’s main entrance and the emergency department.

Travellers from the wider Antwerp region will soon be able to make an appointment there before going on a trip abroad, the UZA announced.

Another test centre for travellers will be set up in the municipality of Geel, in collaboration with its current test and triage centre, which will continue to focus on people who are referred by their GP in the event of symptoms or high-risk contacts.

Additionally, starting this summer, the test buses of the Mobile Testing Team ‘CoBUSters’ will also be used to test groups of travellers before their departure.

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Municipalities can, for example, call the CoBUSters test team to their territory to test people, such as group travellers or organisations, at fixed times and locations.

On top of that, the Mobile Testing Team will also remain available for screenings of possible cluster outbreaks in both the province of Antwerp and Limburg.

Additionally, the UZA is investigating the possibility of having holidaymakers keep a digital diary of their symptoms to quickly detect possible infections in returning travellers.

“At last week’s test events, we ran a pilot for this,” medical director Guy Hans said in a press release. ‘If someone shows symptoms that could indicate a Covid infection, that person can be referred to a GP for a test or examination as soon as possible.”

“For a safe summer, we must remain vigilant at the system level, but also each person individually,” he said.

In mid-May, experts already warned that many people would not be able to go on holiday, if Belgium’s testing capacity did not improve by the summer, citing the lack of staff to carry out the tests and the resulting long times as big concerns.

General practitioners also stated that they were overwhelmed by the number of people asking for a test to be able to go on holiday, saying that testing travellers for Covid-19 was keeping them from their actual job, which is caring for “sick patients or people who need help.”

Additionally, big summer events, such as music festivals like Pukkelpop are also coming up this summer, which will increase the demand for Covid-19 tests even more, which are sure to cause major peaks in the doctors’ workload, they warned.