Belgium changes testing strategy again: what to do after a high-risk contact

Belgium changes testing strategy again: what to do after a high-risk contact
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke. Credit: Belga

For the second time in one week, Belgium is changing its coronavirus testing strategy for vaccinated people after they have had a high-risk contact, authorities announced during a press conference on Wednesday.

Last weekend, the country’s health ministers decided that after having a high-risk contact, people only had to be tested on day 1 (and no longer on day 7 as well) – a move heavily criticised by GPs.

“Over the past few days, we have had discussions with politicians, experts and general practitioners about the testing strategy,” said Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon on Wednesday. “Based on that, we are now clarifying the details of the revised strategy.”

For vaccinated people

After a high-risk contact, those who are vaccinated will receive a code to get tested, which is valid from the third to the sixth day after receipt. They will also have to remain in quarantine until the result of their test is known.

From the fourth day after the high-risk contact, however, they are allowed to leave quarantine but only if they can show a negative self-test result every day.

Once they receive the (negative) test result from their PCR test, their quarantine ends. In the meantime, they should limit their contacts and keep their distance.

Vaccinated high-risk contacts will still receive two test codes from the contact tracers. They are not required to use the second code, but it is possible if they still develop symptoms, for example.

For professionals for which specific exceptions exist today (like healthcare personnel), exceptions remain possible but always in consultation with the occupational physician or the physician in charge of infection prevention.

For non-vaccinated people

After a high-risk contact, nothing changes for those who are not (fully) vaccinated. They must still undergo two PCR tests: the first one on day 1, the second one on day 7.

They must quarantine until they receive a negative result after the second test. Leaving quarantine early by showing a negative self-test every day (like is possible for those who are vaccinated) is not allowed for non-vaccinated people.

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The new testing strategy applies to everyone aged 12 and over, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.

For people with symptoms, the policy remains unchanged: anyone who feels ill should get tested. Test codes can be obtained by completing a questionnaire on mijngezondheid.be.

Additionally, people will be able to register their high-risk contacts via a questionnaire on mijngezondheid.be from tomorrow (Thursday 2 December). This should help the contact tracers to distribute test codes.

This new strategy was designed to reduce the pressure on testing centres and general practitioners, but will likely change again when the epidemiological situation normalises.

“The strategy is temporary,” said Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke.


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