Extra test for UK variant, obligatory test for all returning travellers?

Belgium has launched a pilot project intended to keep new variants of coronavirus in check.  Patients who test positive for new variants will have to take an additional test after the seventh day of their quarantine. Belgium is also considering how it can oblige all people returning from abroad to get tested under existing legislation.

Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) announced the news of the pilot on Sunday.

Karine Moykens is the head of Belgium’s test and trace. She confirms that so far six people in Belgium have tested positive for the new, more infectious variant widespread in southern England.

“When people test positive, of course they isolate themselves.  That applies to all variants.  We’ve started a new pilot project looking for people with high virus values and an abnormality, the S-gen-dropout. This can point to the British, highly contagious variant.  These people will be contacted by a health inspector, who is also a doctor, to tell them to stick strictly to quarantine and to get tested after seven days.  Normally that shouldn’t be required if they don’t display symptoms, but this additional test will tell us whether it’s a good idea to allow them out of quarantine, even if they have no symptoms.  We’ll check to see if virus values have fallen.  We’re treating them like people who still have symptoms or who had a high-risk contact.”

The pilot will only run in Antwerp Province.  The abnormality can only be detected using a special type of test that is mainly used in university labs.  Patients elsewhere won’t need a second test if they don’t have symptoms. 

The authorities are now examining whether the additional test is a useful system before rolling it out across the country.

Tests for everybody returning from abroad?

Figures show hat a third of people returning from abroad don’t get tested.  Ms Moykens believes more tests are required: “It’s a simple system that requires little effort.  We’re looking at how under the present law we can oblige people to get tested.”

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