The only option for Belgian residents who have had a high-risk contact but can no longer get tested for Covid-19 because of a lack of symptoms is self-isolation, a former Sciensano official said.
"If you have been in contact with an infected person, there are two possibilities: either you stay in strict quarantine until you receive test results or you stay in strict quarantine," microbiologist and former Sciensano spokesperson Emmanuel André said on Twitter.
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"Any other option contributes to worsening the situation," he added, in comments that come after Belgian health ministers froze testing asymptomatic people for Covid-19 — even if they have been in contact with a confirmed case.
In lieu of the test, those people will now have to quarantine for ten days, the country's nine health ministers agreed following a meeting on Monday afternoon.
The decision and extended quarantine period will also apply to travellers returning from a high-risk destination coded as red by the foreign affairs minister based on daily coronavirus indicators.
As part of an ambition to boost the country's testing capacity, regional and federal governments opened a string of new testing centres, including four in Brussels specifically targeting asymptomatic cases.
But the surge of new cases has led to an influx of samples which laboratories are no longer able to keep up with as well as to backlogs in regional contact tracing centres — undermining the country's entire testing and tracing platform and hindering officials' ability to break transmission chains, with people reporting delays of up to five days for results.
The Brussels Times