Brussels residents who get vaccinated against Covid-19 in the coming weeks will receive a free PCR test after their first and second dose, announced Inge Neven, the head of the Brussels health inspectorate.
From 1 October, the Brussels Government wants to use the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) more broadly, meaning that people will be required to prove that they are fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or recovered from an infection in the past six months to gain access to bars, gyms or even hospitals.
However, it takes two weeks after the last vaccination dose before the CST can be used in complete safety, in which time those who are fully vaccinated could still be denied access to various events and venues because their QR code would not yet be valid.
"To bridge that period after vaccination, recently-vaccinated Brussels residents will receive a free PCR test so that they can still go out to a restaurant," Neven said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Specifically, it concerns people who are vaccinated between 16 September and 31 October 2021 in a Brussels vaccination point. They will be entitled to a free PCR test in one of the eight test centres in Brussels if they present their vaccination card.
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Anyone who is vaccinated with the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will receive one free test. Those who received a vaccine that requires two doses will get a free test after both the first and second shot - giving them the chance to go to an event or a restaurant without any worries during the "waiting period."
The measure is valid until the end of October, says Neven.
In an interview with The Brussels Times last week, the director of the national human rights institution Unia, Els Keytsman, warned that the CST could infringe on people’s fundamental rights.
She stressed that PCR tests are expensive, meaning that constantly getting tested is "a costly affair" for unvaccinated people without a recovery certificate.
In October, showing the CST will become mandatory for people over 16 years old in the hospitality industry, the nightlife sector, sports and fitness centres, trade fairs and congresses, and the cultural sector in Brussels.
At large events and in residential care centres, the measure will apply to everyone aged 12 and over. People who have not been vaccinated must be able to present a negative test result at the entrance.
City authorities hope that the announcement of the extension of the CST will boost the region's vaccination rate. Yet Neven says that "there is no CST effect yet in the Brussels vaccinations."
"We want to introduce the CST as a management measure to reduce the risk. The first intention is to keep life as normal as possible," she added. "We are not yet seeing the effects of this. Please note that I am saying 'not yet,' and hope that it will still come."