Gov't to deploy self-tests for Covid symptoms as PCR capacity runs out
The caretaker Cabinet wants to widely use self-tests for people with coronavirus symptoms. Now that the GGDs are very busy and are reaching the limits of their testing capacity, self-testing could ensure that people get tested faster. Thus, more coronavirus infections are detected.
Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) wants this use self-tests to be ready by December 3 at the latest, he wrote to parliament. His Ministry cannot yet say whether or how it will provide the tests or whether people will have to buy them themselves in the store.
The government is following advice from the Outbreak Management Team, which stated that "frequent and easily accessible self-testing can be an important addition to the current package, also for people with symptoms, and could help lower the threshold and increase the willingness for testing."
The OMT recommends making the tests available free of charge, thereby making the threshold for people as low as possible. "According to a very recent vignette study by the behavioral unit of the RIVM, having self-tests available at home at the time of complaints leads to an expected doubling of self-tests in case of complaints (20.5 percent to 42.2 percent on day 1 of complaints)," wrote the OMT.
The experts stated that they have no insight into the quality of the various self-tests available in the Netherlands. They argued that by providing them for free, the government could ensure that good quality tests are used.
The OMT did impose several conditions on the broad use of self-tests. For example, it must be aimed at non-vulnerable persons, and a professionally-administered test must always follow a positive test.
According to the current advice from the Cabinet, people should not use self-tests in case of coronavirus complaints. Anyone with complaints is advised to make an appointment with the GGD. According to the Cabinet, the result of a self-test is less accurate than many other coronavirus tests. "Do not use the self-test if you have coronavirus complaints" is currently still on the national government's website.
But recent research of one specific type of self-test shows high effectiveness, according to the OMT. A professional test confirmed a positive self-test result in 87 percent of the cases.