Belgium could stop mass Covid testing in next phase of pandemic, says Van Gucht

Belgium could stop mass Covid testing in next phase of pandemic, says Van Gucht
Virologist Steven Van Gucht. Credit: Belga

It is about time for Belgium to focus its testing and tracing strategy on vulnerable groups in society and to move away from general testing, said virologist Steven Van Gucht ahead of the Consultative Committee meeting on Friday.

Belgium should start focusing the testing and tracing campaign on vulnerable people in collectivities, such as residential care centres, but a way to rapidly scale it back up should be kept handy as well, in case a new variant appears, for example, Van Gucht told the Belga News Agency.

"The question is whether we can organise a system that you can scale down, but also scale up again if necessary," Van Gucht said, adding that he advocates the use of "syndromic surveillance."

Related News

That way, a number of samples could be systematically examined in a certain place, for example in the emergency departments of hospitals, in order to keep a finger on the pulse.

"Additionally, that system could be used for any virus or bacteria," Van Gucht said. Alternatively, he proposed a monitoring network, which systematically screens a certain network of general practitioners and hospitals.

'Time to take the next step'

With this proposal, Van Gucht responded to statements made by Corona Commissioner Pedro Facon on Thursday, saying that a new strategy for the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic is being worked on.

"It is time to take the next step," he told Het Nieuwsblad, explaining that the strategy he is working on can be scaled up and down, linked to the levels of the barometer.

"Today, we are still testing everyone who has symptoms, but in 'code yellow' this will soon no longer be useful. The same applies to contact tracing," he said. "At the start of an outbreak it is absolutely necessary, but as the pandemic evolves and changes we have to question its effectiveness and cost."

The plan will be on the agenda of the Interministerial Conference (IMC) on Public Health next Wednesday.

The Consultative Committee is meeting this afternoon from 14:00 to discuss switching to 'code orange' on the barometer, and will hold a press conference afterwards, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed to The Brussels Times.

An overview of the topics expected to be on Committee's agenda can be found here, and an in-depth explanation of the different phases of the barometer can be found here.

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.