Netherlands

Companies are turning to commercial Covid testing to avoid lengthy waits

A coronavirus nasal testing kit. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Big companies are turning to commercial coronvirus testing centre to avoid long waiting times and lengthy quarantine procedures for frontline staff, the NRC reports.

Companies such as Ahold, ASML, Daf and Hema now have contracts with commercial testers and construction sector umbrella organisations BouwendNederland and TechniekNeerland have also bought in commercial testing capacity for their members, the paper said.

At the beginning of October the waiting time for a test at one of the health board testing centres was an average of 89 hours, meaning almost a week off work for the person with suspected coronavirus and possibly his nearest colleagues.

Test waiting times have since gone down to 56 hours, the paper writes, but that is still too long for companies where part of the work still demands a physical presence of workers. Commercial testing centres pledge a wait of no more than 36 hours.

The decision to go commercial goes against an earlier urgent request from the health ministry to use only health board facilities so scarce lab capacity can be used as efficiently as possible.

But, the NRC writes, the move is a logical result of the government’s  inability to organise sufficient testing capacity and the lack of preparedness as cases mounted over the summer.

Not all tests will be bought from commercial parties. Ahold subsidiary Albert Heijn only resorts to commercial testing if waiting times exceed 24 hours as does budget chemist Kruidvat.

‘Most people still go to the health board testing centres,’ Kruidvat human resource manager Jan Carel Uylenburg told the paper. ‘But if they are too slow the company will decide differently. The sooner you know the better, for the people themselves and for the managers who have to keep the shop going.’

Workforce

Hema, however, is thinking of introducing fast commercial testing for almost all its 12,000 strong workforce.

‘It’s not a criticism of the health boards who are doing what they can. But a 48 hour wait for a test plus a 48 hour wait for the result means a worker is off work for four days. That is simply too expensive,’ a spokesman told the paper.

Industry too is turning to commercial testing, particularly in sectors where vital highly trained and specialised staff cannot be replaced at a moment’s notice, as is the case at chip machinery maker ASML.

Heath minister Hugo de Jonge has said that he want to regulate private testing by companies according to guidelines to be drafted by health institute RIVM.  So far no date has been given for the presentation of those guidelines, the paper said.

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