How the test increase will be achieved was not made clear at the press conference.
AAt the height of the seasonal flu epidemic, 50,000 to 70,000 tests (for coronavirus screening, editor’s note) will be scheduled per day, ”said interfederal spokesperson Frédérique Jacobs on Friday at a joint press conference at the Center for crisis and the FPS Public Health.
This peak is usually between January and March. Health ministers have an “ambitious plan to maintain a high rate of testing in the months to come”, she said. However, the manner in which the increase in tests will be achieved was not specified during the press conference.
Difficult fall and winter
Autumn and winter are shaping up to be particularly difficult. “Other viruses will be circulating and can cause colds and flu-like symptoms. We will then be able to distinguish the Covid-19 only with tests, ”she explained.
“The goal is that everyone can be tested according to a priority list. If there is a decrease in the number of tests available, the tests in the lower priority categories will not take place, ”continued Ms. Jacobs.
Three phases are distinguished. In phase 1, with a low circulation of the virus, or less than 15 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks, in-depth tests can be carried out.
Secondly, in the event of increased circulation of the virus, ie between 15 and 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the indications are modified. For example, travelers returning from an orange zone will no longer be tested.
The third stage corresponds to circulation of the virus with more than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. For example, travelers returning from a red zone will no longer be screened but invited, as is currently the case, to quarantine.
High risk contacts will only be tested once instead of twice in these circumstances. If a municipality or a larger area is in phase 3, the staff of residential care centers may be screened once a month for Covid-19.
No preventive screening
On the other hand, preventive screening in the absence of symptoms or signs of an epidemic within a company or a school is not recommended at this stage.
According to Frédérique Jacobs, “clinical laboratories are invited to continue to expand their capacity. In the event of a local shortage, laboratories will be able to send samples to each other or to call on the Federal Testing Platform, which will guarantee additional capacity. ”
Some 20,000 to 25,000 tests are currently performed per day and “we have a maximum capacity of about 30,000 tests per day”. In terms of the number of tests carried out per inhabitant, Belgium is currently “in the lead”, according to the spokesperson.