Coronavirus self-tests to become available in Belgian supermarkets
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Coronavirus self-tests to become available in Belgian supermarkets

Credit: Belga

Coronavirus self-tests will no longer exclusively be sold in pharmacies, as they will soon also become available in Belgian supermarkets, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke announced on Thursday.

The tests, which don’t offer the same certainty as PCR tests but offer a quick way to check whether someone is highly infectious with the coronavirus, were previously only available in pharmacies, as targeted advice can be given here.

“To be sure that this line of defence would be effective, the advice of the pharmacist was indeed an essential condition for us”, Vandenbroucke said.

He has now said the wider availability of the tests is a logical application of the European rules but stressed that the advice of a pharmacist can be very useful for explaining how to correctly do the test, how to read results and what to do in the case of a positive result, especially for those who have never used self-tests.

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“For people who have never bought or performed a self-test, the purchase in the pharmacy still has the advantage that the pharmacist gives advice on use,” Vandenbroucke said.

So far, over 835,000 self-tests have been sold in pharmacies across Belgium, however, these figures don’t take into account the purchase of self-tests that aren’t refunded by increased reimbursement schemes, meaning these official figures are an underestimation.

The reimbursement of the self-tests will continue to apply to people who are entitled to increased reimbursement. They will have to make a contribution of €1 and can buy two self-tests per week per family member at this price in the pharmacy.

In theory vs. in practice

Although supermarkets can now sell the self-tests among their aisles, not all chains are excited about putting them on their shelves, according to reports from RTBF. 

“We are keeping an eye on the market, but for the moment, we are not going to launch ourselves on this market,” said Nathalie Roisin, spokesperson for Colruyt.

“We believe that there are still too many unknowns, the quality of the product, its conservation, its precision,” she added.

This opinion was backed by Delhaize and Aldi. Meanwhile, Julien Watieu, communications manager at Lidl said the chain is monitoring the epidemiological situation closely in the coming weeks, but added that they “do not feel that our customers are particularly interested in these self-tests.”

“We put them on sale in our shops in Luxembourg a few weeks ago, but they were not very successful. In short, it’s not a categorical no, we’ll see,” she added.

French supermarket chain Carrefour is more positive towards the prospect of putting the self-tests on its shelves. “Our approach is also to fight against the spread of the virus, with approved and compliant equipment, of course,” said spokesperson Syrin Stambuli.

The Brussels Times