Millions of Covid rapid tests gathering dust in gov't storage: report
Last autumn, the Dutch Ministry of Public Health paid 354 million euros for 38 million rapid coronavirus tests. So far only 6 million of them have been used. The other 32 million are in storage with their expiry dates approaching. And that while the Ministry of Infrastructure is buying more rapid tests to test holidaymakers, Trouw reports based on its own research.
The Ministry of Public Health also paid top dollar for these antigen tests now in storage, paying an average of 9.31 euros each, the Ministry's test service told Trouw. A document from public health institute RIVM showed that some rapid tests already cost between 5 and 7 euros last autumn. Most of the antigen tests were destined for Testing for Access, until this system largely came to a halt when the government re-implemented restrictions on nightlife and events.
The purchase of the antigen tests was not put out to public tender, with the Ministry of Public Health previously saying that an exception was made due to the "exceptional urgency". But in view of the current stock, it seems that only a small part of the quickly acquired tests were urgently needed. And most of these tests only have a shelf life of one to two years. Millions of them were produced in 2020, which means their expiry dates are approaching.
Meanwhile a different department of the government, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, is also buying antigen tests to test holidaymakers before their trip. Until the start of August, 1.7 million tests were done for Testing for Travel, an estimated 40 percent of which were antigen rapid tests, according to the newspaper.
When asked about this, the Ministry of Infrastructure told Trouw that it concluded its own contracts with test companies because it did not have access to the Ministry of Public Health's tests. The Ministry of Public Health told the newspaper that its tests are not yet being distributed, because it is uncertain whether Public Health will need them itself. For example, it is possible that the antigen tests will be used to open education, a spokesperson said.
Trouw pointed out that this is unlikely, as education uses self-tests that can be done at home. Early this year, the Ministry of Public Health also bought between 50 and 60 million of these self-tests for an amount between 200 and 300 million euros.