Commercial coronavirus tests will be used from next week to relieve the strain on local health services caused by a surge in infections since the start of the year.
GGD GHOR, the network of local health services, confirmed that people would be offered certified antigen tests, arranged through Stichting Open Nederland (SON), if no local testing facility was available.
Until now GGD facilities have offered PCR tests, which are more reliable than antigen tests and can be used to detect which variant of the virus a person is infected with. The commercial tests were originally devised for the ‘test for entry’ system to give people access to venues such as restaurants, cinemas and theatres.
But with an average of 45,000 cases being confirmed in the last seven days and 44% of people testing positive, the service is no longer able to keep up with demand.
The GGD network has calculated it will need 200,000 tests per day in the coming period, while its maximum capacity is 150,000.
The public health agency RIVM has a backlog of 48,000 tests from the last six days which have not been processed.
In a statement, GGD GHOR said: ‘The Omicron variant has led to far more infections and consequently a large number of tests – more than at the peak of the previous Delta variant.
‘If a region becomes too busy the commercial test providers will support the GGDs so that more people can be tested.’
Since December people have been encouraged to use self tests if they have mild symptoms or before going to a public place, and only book a PCR test to confirm a positive self test. However, in some cases a PCR test is required – for example, to leave quarantine five days after returning from a high-risk country.
A spokesman for GGD GHOR said antigen tests would still be valid for people wanting to end quarantine, provided they were carried out by a certified clinic.
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