Dutch government advises those with mild symptoms to take a self-test
In a statement released on Thursday evening, the Dutch government announced that anyone suffering from mild coronavirus symptoms, such as a runny nose or a sore throat, could take a rapid self-test instead of booking a PCR appointment at the GGD.
Dutch government advises self-tests over GGD tests
For months, people in the Netherlands have been reminded that, if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19, they must book a test with the GGD. Now, following new advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), the Dutch government has updated its policy, saying “self-tests are also suitable for use with people with coronavirus-related complaints.”
The government has emphasised that self-tests can only be used as a replacement for GGD tests amongst people who aren’t considered medically vulnerable and who aren’t experiencing severe symptoms (i.e. loss of taste or smell). This also applies to anyone who comes into (regular) contact with elderly or vulnerable people (i.e. those working in the healthcare system).
If the self-test comes back positive, you are still required to book a test with the GGD to confirm the result. GGD tests are also still required if you would like to obtain a "recovered" coronavirus certificate, or if you would like to end your mandatory quarantine after only five days. If the test is negative but symptoms worsen, you are advised to book an appointment with the GGD.
Medical experts concerned about new testing policy
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge was hopeful the new policy would encourage more people to get tested for COVID-19, and advised always keeping a few testing kits on hand: “A big advantage of self-testing is that you can do the self-test at any time, and that you immediately have the results. This makes it even easier to test for coronavirus.”
While the Health Minister seems enthusiastic, others are worried this new policy could result in the government and the GGD losing track of the virus. Doctors and virologists also warn that self-tests are significantly less sensitive than the PCR tests used by the GGD, and so are more likely to report false negatives - especially amongst people who are only suffering from mild symptoms.
Marino van Zelst, an infectious disease modeller at Wageningen University & Research, pointed out on Twitter that the new Omicron variant could only be detected by the tests used by the GGD, calling the timing of the government’s change in policy “a bit...unwise.”