STG / Reporters

Brussels: “Today the situation is so out of hand it’s pointless”

Family doctors in Brussels are sounding the alarm.  There’s been an exponential rise in the number of patients who need a corona test, but matters are so out of hand that contact tracing is no longer an option.

“We can’t cope” says Elisabeth Wallays of the Brussels GP’s Association. “At least not in this way of working.”

Dr Wallays works in a big GP surgery in Molenbeek (Brussels) where doctors take turns to carry out corona tests in a gazebo outside. But even here testing capacity is fully booked by the morning.

Molenbeek is densely populated: “The minute one person tests positive, we need to test an awful lot of other people.  Test capacity is never big enough for our needs”.

Doctors spend hours on the phone talking to worried people: “People have been in contact with somebody who tested positive and are fearful.  They need a prescription for a test or doctor’s note for quarantine.  It all requires a lot of explaining and time.”

“We need to change our strategy” says Dr Wallays.  “Testing patients with slight symptoms doesn’t add much because they have to quarantine in any case.”

The doctor believes providing people with more information is far more useful and greatly needed. Of course serious cases require follow-up. She also wants to contact patients who no longer dare to turn up because problems that don’t go away can become even more serious.

Dr Wallays speaks of a missed opportunity.  During the summer, when 7% of tests were coming back positive, greater efforts should have been made to track and trace clusters, inform people and introduce local lockdowns.  “That would have been possible at that time. Today the situation is so out of hand it’s pointless” she says. “It’s time for drastic action.”

“Providing information locally is required.  You can’t reach everybody through a federal information campaign.  People come from different backgrounds, different cultures.”

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