Commercial test centres may help regional health boards meet demand


Commercial coronavirus testing centres will carry out tests on behalf of the regional health boards if they become overloaded as the Omicron variant takes hold, broadcaster NOS reported on Wednesday.

Pier Eringa, chief executive of the test for entry organisation Stichting Open Nederland, told the broadcaster that an agreement with the regional health board association GGD is on the verge of being signed.

The deal will allow test for entry locations to offer tests on behalf of the GGD if the state-run centres cannot deal with the expected rise in cases, Eringa said. Current capacity the the GGD centres is 120,000 tests a day.

A spokesman for the GGD organisation said that while talks on expanding test capacity are underway, ‘the details are not yet known because the talks have not been completed.’

NOS said the commercial centres, currently operated by 26 different companies, would probably only offer lateral flow tests, which are less accurate than a PCR test and which cannot be included in EU-wide coronavirus pass. This would have implications for foreign travel, which often requires a negative PCR test, but would ease pressure on laboratories analysing the results.

The test for entry centres were used by people who had not been vaccinated to make sure they were virus free and could get a coronavirus pass, allowing them entry to cafes, bars, cinemas and museums. Since the most recent restrictions were imposed in mid December, however, they have been carrying out around 20,000 tests a day.

The commercial companies operate 750 locations nationwide and have capacity to carry out 600,000 tests a day.

Eringa did not disclose any financial details but the test for entry system so far has cost at least €1bn.

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