Health Minister on coronavirus testing “It needs to be kept feasible in this serious situation”

The Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has told VRT News that Belgium’s coronavirus testing strategy is being modified in order to keep it feasible. Earlier it was announced that people in Belgium that have no symptoms would no longer be obliged to take a test if they had been in contact with someone that was infected with the novel coronavirus or had returned from a country or area that is coloured red on the coronavirus risk map.   

Mr Vandebroucke told VRT News that "We test more than is the case in other countries. Up until now we had a very wide-ranging and ambitious stagey regarding testing”.

However, this no longer appears to be particle. "We are making our GPs' lives impossible. These people need to be able to do their normal work and the labs need to be able to buy the raw materials. You need to keep things feasible in this very serious situation”.  

This means that priorities need to be set: tests for people with symptoms, for groups within which there are outbreaks (for example in care homes or among the members of football teams) and the preventative testing of those admitted to care homes and hospitals.

But is it not the case that the tests are our defensive wall of protection against the virus? “I can only say one thing. People need to be extremely careful”.

"It really is all hands on deck now, because if the dam does indeed break the hospitals will become full and their normal work will come to a complete standstill.”

However, the Health Minister does offer a glimmer of hope. "I think that we could see a turnaround within a few days if we are all extremely careful and stop all these rear-guard discussions”. Mr Vandenbroucke also has a message for youngsters. “Being careful isn’t a sign of weakness or being soft. It is treating your own body intelligently”.

When asked about saliva tests and tests that offer a quick turnaround, the Health Minister said that we shouldn’t have too many illusions. “We are not going to start quick testing tomorrow or the day after. In other countries too they are cautious in this regard”.

Mr Vandenbroucke says it will be a least another few weeks before quick tests are used as the Health Department wishes to be certain that the right tests are used. Half a million tests have been ordered with the option of ordering many more if they prove effective.  

"It is the same story regarding saliva tests. It is the scientific evolution is promising, but I don’t think that saliva testing will be operational within a few weeks”.

Mr Vandenbroucke described the growing number of hospital admissions “As very disturbing”.

Although the situation is worse in Wallonia, the Health Minister warned Fleming against being smug “If I look at the figures from Antwerp or Mechelen, not to mention Vilvoorde, these figures are particularly bad”.

"There is a threat of a real tsunami. If it really does flood over our doctors, hospitals and care homes, it will be disastrous”, the Health Minister concluded.

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