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Explained: when does the validity of a PCR test start?

Credit: Belga

As the Consultative Committee decided to shorten the validity of a negative test result in August, virologist and interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht explained the latest rules at a press conference on Friday.

Two options were provided for events starting on 13 August. The first is that a number of safety regulations – such as keeping the social distance, bubbles, wearing masks – continue to be observed.

“The second is making use of the Covid Safe Ticket,” said Van Gucht, which proves that someone has been vaccinated, tested or has recovered. “This will come into effect from 13 August, and this for outdoor events with more than 1.500 participants.”

“From 2 August, a PCR test will no longer be valid for three days, but for only two. A rapid antigen test will no longer be valid for two days, but for one day,” he said.

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The reason for that shorter validity period is that a test result is always a “snapshot,” according to Van Gucht. “People who initially test negative can sometimes still become infectious in the days afterwards.”

“The validity period of a negative test only starts the day after the sample was taken,” Van Gucht said.

“For example, if you have a PCR test taken on Monday, and the result is negative, the Covid Safe Ticket will remain valid until Wednesday midnight,” he added. “However, always keep in mind that the result may take a day to come in.”

In case of a rapid antigen test taken on Monday, the ticket will remain valid until Tuesday midnight, according to Van Gucht.

“Please note that, especially in the case of a rapid antigen test, there is still a chance that you will become infectious the next day,” he said. “If possible, the PCR test is therefore still the best option.”

On top of that, some caution is still in order, even if you have a negative test, Van Gucht stressed.

Access control for events has to be very strict, he stressed. “The Covid Safe Ticket is personal and identity verification is required. Organisers are asked to check the Ticket once a day.”