'About time' access to coronavirus test got easier, Brussels mayor says

'About time' access to coronavirus test got easier, Brussels mayor says
© Belga

In order to fight back a potential new wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium, it is high time to make it easier to get tested, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close said on Thursday.

As clusters continue to emerge in over 110 Belgian municipalities, Close took to Twitter to say it was about time to open up and facilitate access to a Covid-19 test in the country.

"Isn't it time to make [Covid-19] testing easier in Belgium? No appointment, no prescription?" Close tweeted, calling for the "rapid" set up of several testing centres such as the ones set up by South Korea and some US states.

Close said that four Brussels hospitals were ready to step in and increase testing after the current barriers were done away with.

Currently, regulations to get access to testing —decided at the federal level by health institute Sciensano—, mean that individuals must be asymptomatic to get tested.

Moreover, Sciensano requires that testing centres give priority to health staff, people living in residential communities such as nursing homes and people who have had close contact with confirmed Covid-19 tests.

In order to have a test reimbursed, individuals must also have their doctor write them a prescription to get tested.

Close's calls for wider testing on Thursday also coincides with a decision by the regional health minister, Alain Maron, to double the testing capacity in the Brussels' region to up to 5,000 per day — but only by September.

The capital's testing capacity has also been put under considerable strain in recent weeks, with the closure of several testing centres coinciding with a surge in demand for testing by residents looking to prove their virus-free status before leaving on holidays.

As the virus continues to flare in Flanders —with entire Antwerp province put under curfew in an effort to contain surging new infections— medical professionals in Brussels have urged local authorities to remain vigilant, with one doctor saying that an Antwerp-like scenario was not unlikely in the Belgian capital.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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