Saturday 08 August 2020

Waiting times for Covid testing still too long, health boards scaling up

A coronavirus nasal testing kit. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Coronavirus test delays have prompted local health boards to ramp up their testing facilities but not all are up to speed as infection rates increase, public broadcaster NOS has found.

In the provinces of Noord-Brabant, Zeeland, Gelderland, Flevoland and Noord and Zuid-Holland people who wanted a test in the last ten days had to wait over 24 hours while in Rotterdam, which currently has the highest number of infections, waiting times were as high as 52 hours. In many instances health boards were also taking longer than 48 hours to communicate test results.

Meanwhile, the number of tests carried out hit 111,764 last week, a rise of 25% on the previous week, the health board umbrella organisation GGD GHOR said. Everyone with even mild coronavirus symptoms has been able to book a test since June 1.

At least nine out of 25 health board facilities are increasing their testing capacity, NOS said, but some extra testing sites will only become operational next week depending on the recruitment of staff.  A spokesman for umbrella organisation GGD GHOR said the problems are due to ‘a sudden explosive increase’ in the number of test requests.

The organisation maintains that 90% of people who test positive are told within 24 hours. Many who test negative are having to wait longer than 48 hours for their results, NOS said, citing comments on social media.

Worrying

The situation is worrying, according to epidemiologist Amrish Baidjoe, who is a World Health Organisation advisor. ‘The number of infections is growing in the Netherlands and other European countries. We’re not seeing the same numbers we saw in spring so it’s all the more worrying to see appointments piling up at the test centres.’

If it takes too long to get a test people may not bother at all, Baidjoe said, and longer waiting times for test results means symptoms could get worse and increase the risk of others being infected.

‘We saw this coming. The [government’s advisory] Outbreak Management Team said the conditions for relaxing lockdown included proper testing. The GGD is facing a huge logistical challenge… but we’re now two months down the line and we really need to get the testing sorted,’ Baidjoe said.

Rotterdam’s health board has now increased opening times for testing and is adding more testing sites in the next week. Amsterdam and Zeeland have already opened more sites and Gelderland is adding an extra facility on Monday.

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