Beke points to labs as a weak link in the corona chain

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Half of the corona cases still have more than 54 hours between sampling and the start of the search with whom they have had contact. Flemish Minister of Welfare Wouter Beke (CD&V) says that the bottleneck is in the labs – not his competence.

Contact Detection. Preliminary stage. Median duration. Wouter Beke may never become a clear communicator. Despite the Flemish parliamentary summer recess, the minister had to show up in the corona committee to account for the Flemish contact investigation. Calling up corona cases – to quarantine them and investigate who might infect them – is a limp that stops the fight against corona. Although it is nice for the opposition to kick extra for a weakened minister, who has been under fire in recent months for all things corona. A tousled TV interview last week didn’t help his case either.

At speed

It is heard here and there that the malicious contact detection is getting up to speed. That is what Beke is happy to emphasize. Between 1 and 16 July, two out of three corona cases were contacted within 24 hours by one of the call centers that assist the government. These are the latest figures available from the Flemish Agency for Care and Health (AZG). Within 48 hours, this affects more than eight in ten of the patients. Ultimately, 94 percent of all corona cases were reached – after a physical home visit that could not be called. By comparison, 55 percent was not reached in Brussels between 22 and 28 July.

94 percent

Contacted corona cases
Between 1 and 16 July, Flanders was able to reach 94 percent of all corona cases – after a physical home visit to which calls could not be made. By comparison, 55 percent was not reached in Brussels between 22 and 28 July.

Contact tracing is a mixed federal and regional jurisdiction. Beke says his cogs do their job in that machine. ‘We have to distinguish between contact detection and the preliminary phase. If it takes too long, it is often about that preliminary phase: the sampling, the announcement of the results and the creation of the patient file for transfer to the database. ‘

Scavenger hunt

Half of the corona cases still have more than 54 hours between sampling and the start of the search for whom they have had contact with. Beke also presented those figures on Tuesday during online consultations with the mayors. After many fives and sixes, they received permission from Beke to conduct local contact detection after his services had been on the brakes for a long time. According to Beke, the part for which Flanders is competent – to start detecting if the person who is infected seeps through – happens quickly. “In five hours, within that 54-hour trial.”

The weak links are, according to Beke, the labs. ‘The speed with which labs process the tests is a crucial factor and there is room for improvement. There are labs that leave their information for days and days. Unfortunately, the contact investigation has little control over that preliminary process. ‘ Bekiaans for: not my authority.



The speed at which labs process the tests is a crucial factor and there is room for improvement.

Wouter Beke

Flemish Minister for Welfare

“We are working to death. We process 500 to 1,000 tests every day, as good as always within 24 hours of receipt, ‘says Griet Nuytinck, director of the Anacura lab in Evergem. This belongs to a minority of private labs that, in addition to dozens of hospital labs, are officially certified by the Sciensano knowledge center to analyze corona tests. ‘We are at our maximum capacity, but our lab is also – not the only one, I hear from colleagues – with shortages. From active substances to do the analyzes to additional devices. Everything is continuously in order, and it is hoped that something will come from the foreign specialist firms. ”



We are at our maximum capacity, but our lab is also – not the only one, I hear from colleagues – with shortages. Everything is continuously in order. It is hoped that something will come from the foreign specialist firms.

Griet Nuytinck

Medical lab Anacura in Evergem

Nuytinck currently sends test results to Sciensano twice a day. In principle, this will be every hour in the coming days. Due to a new legal regulation, labs can whistle for a refund if they do not send their data within the hour. Only a third would do so within the hour now. Nuytinck: ‘The repayment of 46.5 euros is purely cost-effective. In case of a non-refund, we run dik loss. In itself, the government’s requirement is not unreasonable, we understand the importance. But announcing it immediately and immediately meeting that requirement is far beyond it. ”

Soup

‘We already don’t know where to start, also because of a variety of other rules that are constantly being changed. Come and have a look. If another load arrives at 10 pm, we continue to finish it by morning. We have just been called by the crisis cell of the city of Ghent, asking us how many corona tests have been conducted at Gentenaars. They now only get who tests positive, and at Sciensano they get zero on the complaint to get all the tests taken on people with zip code 9000. (breedWe’ll do that for sure. ”

There have been warnings for some time about the possible consequences of the decision to let municipalities do their own contact investigation. A well-meaning idea threatens to end in a soup where everyone throws something into the pot, without keeping the overview that it all still matches.



Triage posts, general practitioners, residential care centers and hospitals sometimes send samples only once a day. Tests that were carried out at 9 am do not end up in the lab until 7 pm.

The labs also say that they do not have full control over it themselves. They pass tests from triage stations, general practitioners, residential care centers and hospitals. Sometimes they only send samples once a day. ‘Tests that were carried out at 9 a.m. do not end up in the lab until 7 p.m. 90 percent of the tests were processed here within 12 hours, the rest within 24 hours. An update goes to Sciensano every half hour. It really doesn’t go much faster, ‘says the lab of the AZ Delta Roeselare-Menen-Torhout hospital.

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