Primary schools tired of waiting for Covid tests; Buying tests themselves
This past month, over 50 primary schools in the Netherlands have given up on waiting for health service GGD to test their teachers with coronavirus symptoms and have simply bought tests from a private lab themselves. With the already existing teachers shortage, the schools can't afford to have teachers sit at home for days while they wait for the results from the GGD.
Everyone in the Netherlands who have symptoms that can indicate a coronavirus infection must get tested for the virus. While they wait for their test and the results they are urgently advised to stay home. The GGD test locations throughout the Netherlands were overloaded this week, resulting in people sometimes having to wait days to get an appointment. And then they still have to wait for the results.
For schools that means absent teachers for multiple days. Newspaper Trouw spoke to over 50 schools who decided to just go and buy commercial tests themselves as they could not wait any longer for the Cabinet to possibly adjust its policy. On Friday night, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that teachers would be part of a priority group that gets to skip the line and get tested first by the GGD, with many branches of the health service currently unable to provide testing within a two-day period of symptoms arising.
"As administrators we believe that this method of testing should not be done, because it actually belongs with the GGD and the government,' Geert Tissink of PCPO Krimpenerwaard, which covers eight schools in the Gouda region, said to the newspaper. "On the other hand, you're only hurting yourself if you don't do it. One colleague will not be able to get tested by the GGD until next Wednesday. Another colleague called the lab this morning where we bought the tests and they can go before 10 a.m."
Geurt Morren of Ante, which covers 10 primary schools, told Trouw a similar story. Ante and two other school boards bought 100 tests last week. "It's a simple calculation A day's replacement costs me about 300 euros, this test 100 euros. If the test is negative, the teacher can immediately go back to work the next day. That is much less drastic for the children, and the parents are also overjoyed"
PO-Raad, the council for primary schools in the Netherlands, understands the schools' decision to buy their own tests, but aren't happy with it. "We also hear from the managers that they are drowning and that something really needs to be done, " a spokesperson said to the newspaper. "But this is not what the education money is for." The PO-Raad has been calling on the government to give teachers priority in Covid-19 testing for some time.
Morren and Tissink purchased their tests from Coronalab.eu. The company, which sells the same PCR tests used by the GGD and is on an RIVM list of approved labs, confirmed the increased interests from school boards. "I think that in the past two weeks there have indeed been around 20 to 30 school boards," co-founder Patrick de Boer said to Trouw. "We are therefore very busy."
According to De Boer, they can process tests faster than the GGD because they're not dealing with tens of thousands of tests at a time, and because they're a "kind of all-in solution". "We are a company with several test locations and our own lab," he said. "We test in the morning, collect the tests from all locations and bring them to the lab in Amsterdam. The tests results then follow in the evening."
"In addition to care workers, teachers with Covid-related complaints can also be tested as a priority in the coming period," De Jonge said in a letter to Parliament, referring only to those working in primary, secondary, and special education, where student attendance is compulsory. The Ministry was still working on a plan for shorter turnaround time for educators' test results.