Restaurant owners could be tested weekly when sector reopens, says expert

Restaurant owners could be tested weekly when sector reopens, says expert
Credit: Belga/Jasper Jacobs

It is a possibility that restaurant owners will have to take a coronavirus test every week when Belgium's hospitality sector reopens, according to professor and chair of the testing taskforce Herman Goossens.

While asking customers to test themselves before they come into a restaurant could be difficult from an organisational point of view, testing owners weekly could be an opportunity to deploy rapid and self-testing, Goossens told the Belga news agency.

The law will soon be changed, and rapid tests in the form of self-tests are a part of the exit strategy from May, when the hospitality industry is expected to reopen, as Prime Minister Alexander De Croo already stated at last Friday's Consultative Committee.

"We have to think carefully what exactly we want to use these tests for," said Goossens, adding that asking people to get tested before going to a restaurant or attending an event will be difficult in practice.

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"Restaurant owners could, for example, test themselves on a weekly basis," he said "That is, of course, not a watertight system either, because customers can also be the source of infection."

However, a perfect system does not exist, according to Goossens, who added that some infections will always be overlooked. "But you can still detect some people who could cause outbreaks. That way, the spread of the virus can be partly prevented and there is a perspective for people," he said.

Goossens stressed that, even though some people oppose a society in which everything is linked to testing, it is ultimately a political decision.

"Politicians decided last week that antigen testing and self-testing are going to be important, and then we have to be able to make those decisions concrete," he added.

According to Goossens, "a revolution is coming" in the field of diagnostics in infectious diseases, and "the testing policy in the field of respiratory infections will look completely different next year."

Additionally, Belgium's testing strategy is constantly changing because technology is also evolving very rapidly, he said.

Currently, there are saliva tests, but soon Belgium will also have breath tests, as well as dogs trained to recognise people infected with the coronavirus.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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