Dutch standing in the way of EU’s free coronavirus testing for travelers
The European Commission initiative to make coronavirus PCR testing free for travel passengers is being hindered by the Dutch Government, BNR reported after discussions with several members of European Parliament. The Netherlands is said to be against the proposal out of concern that creating an obligation to make mandatory testing free will endanger commercial testing centers whose entire business model revolves around charging a fee for the tests and providing a certificate for travel.
"The Netherlands is not enthusiastic and wants to keep the possibility of charging the costs of PCR tests," GroenLinks MEP Tineke Strik told BNR. Strik herself advocated the introduction of free tests explaining that many families would otherwise face excessive costs. "On the market, a test is easily 100 euros, so it can really be a barrier, especially if you have to travel with a family and have a test done more often," she said.
People who have not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and who want to travel within the European Union this summer, will likely be obliged to offer proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure. In the Netherlands, over a third of adults have received a first Covid-19 vaccine shot, with the country aiming to make a first shot available to all residents by July. Only about ten percent of adults have been fully vaccinated, according to ECDC figures, and no vaccine doses are expected to be provided to children under 16 any time soon.
Strik revealed that the proposal was currently being discussed between the European Council and the European Parliament, but and that the European Commission is no longer taking a leading role in negotiations.
Rasmus Emmelkamp, director of Spoedtest.nl. argued that the labor intensive process, cyber security issues, and data privacy makes the introduction of free tests unsustainable for commercial coronavirus test providers. "Such a test is already quite expensive because there is a lot involved. After it has been taken, it must be transported to a laboratory and then we have to secure the data. We are in favor of the cheapest possible tests, but a free one is not feasible in our opinion," said Emmelkamp.
"We really want to lower the price, so that everyone can get tested. Offering a free test without support is however a difficult story," he added. He supported an approach in which a government would at least party reimburse the costs of the providers.