About half of requested free travel tests in Belgium are never carried out
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About half of requested free travel tests in Belgium are never carried out

Credit: Belga

Belgian residents who have not yet been fully vaccinated can get two free PCR tests from the government this summer, but only half of the people who requested them actually have the test taken.

Since the system to request the Covid tests went online at the end of June, more than a million free test codes have been requested so far.

“However, only 58% of those actually had a test done,” said Karine Moykens, chair of the interfederal Testing & Tracing Committee on Flemish radio on Friday.

“We find that many people do apply for the code, but then do not book a test,” she said, adding that she does not have a real explanation for this.

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It could be a combination of the limited time that the test codes are valid (ten days after requesting it), and the limited computer skills of some applicants, according to Moykens.

She stressed that the capacity in the testing centres remains sufficient. “Both for people who are ill, had a high-risk contact or want to leave or return on holiday.”

On Thursday, a survey by the Domus Medica association of general practitioners among 56 Flemish testing centres showed that over 70% of the testing centres are experiencing increased aggression by patients towards their staff due to the travel tests.

It mainly concerns verbal aggression towards the staff, both in the centres on-site and by telephone, but 16% of the centres also reported cases of physical aggression.

In 13% of centres, the police even had to intervene to calm things down.

The main reported reason for the aggression is that many travellers come to the centre without a code for such a free test, or show up without an appointment, expecting to be tested for free.

Other reasons, such as the code for a free test being expired, meaning that the traveller has to pay for it, are also reported.

Additionally, travellers are also frustrated because the results sometimes do not arrive quickly enough (before departure), or do not agree with an order to quarantine after a positive test result.