Dutch ramp up testing to 17,500 a day, launch project to assess coronavirus spread

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The number of coronavirus tests carried out in the Netherlands will expand considerably from Monday as local health boards start testing hospital staff, and the public health institute RIVM and blood bank Sanquin begin a project to find out how far the virus has spread.

Up to now, only hospital staff and patients with serious symptoms have been tested – and some 18,000 people have been found to have the virus, of whom nearly 7,000 have been hospitalised.

From today, however, health boards are poised to start testing hospital staff at ‘drive in’ locations, Trouw said, while home nurses and nursing home staff can also be tested.

At the same time, Sanquin is running tests on some 7,000 blood donors while health boards will carry out tests on a further 6,000 people in a joint project to check where the virus is spreading.

The results of that project, due at the end of the month, will help officials decide if the current ‘intelligent lockdown’ should be partially lifted, the paper said.

Currently labs have been carrying out 4,000 tests a day but that is being expanded to 17,500 and could be boosted to 29,000 if necessary, health minister Hugo de Jonge said last week.

According to news website Nu.nl, the number of labs equipped to carry out the test has gone up from 15 to 41 by including hospital laboratories in the testing network.

Virologist Ann Vossen told Trouw that testing has to be carried out with the aim of protecting vulnerable people and finding out what stage the epidemic has reached.

‘If you test, there must be consequences,’ she said. ‘Tests cannot be motivated simply by saying “I want to know”,’ she said. ‘It should be a case of , “If I am infected, then I will go into quarantine, or possibly to hospital”.’

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