Only 7200 passengers tested at Schiphol since opening test street

All travellers from high-risk areas can test at Schiphol, that was the ambition of Minister Hugo de Jonge. But with a capacity of a thousand tests a day, it’s still a long way off. The Municipal Health Service (GGD) says that at least 250 people are needed for the test street at Schiphol in order to be able to test all high-risk travellers. Now there are forty people working there.

Since the opening of the test street at the airport on August 13th, a total of 7255 people have been tested on corona. That is a fraction of the tens of thousands of Dutch people who have returned from risk areas in recent weeks. Today alone, some 6500 passengers from orange or red countries arrive at Schiphol.

A majority of the Lower House today is calling for the number of tests to be increased and the opening hours of the test street to be extended. “The test street is now only open half the day, while late at night, for example, a large wave of flights come from Spain,” says D66 MP Jan Paternotte.

Enormous challenge

The Minister wants to “scale up the test street at Schiphol in a controlled way”, let the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport know. The capacity of the Schiphol test street should not be at the expense of testing people with complaints in regular test streets. Last week, the number of tests there increased by about 40 percent.

The GGD only received a request from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport on 1 August, five days before the announcement of the test street, to start testing passengers from high-risk areas at the airport. Krรถger finds this incomprehensible. “Precisely because it is clear that testing is an important way to contain the virus.”

The GGD now waits for travellers of a number of selected flights at the gate to point them to the test street. But almost half skip the test, which is voluntary. They say, for example, that family is waiting or that they have to catch the train. And that while travellers from high-risk areas have to be quarantined at home.

Arts microbiologist Marc Bonten of the UMC Utrecht doubts whether mass testing at Schiphol is the best way to combat the virus. “We also have to realise that people do not only enter our country via Schiphol. It also appears from source and contact research that travel is not the most important factor.”

How many people have contracted corona abroad is not clear. The RIVM weekly report shows that more than 24 percent of corona patients have been abroad in the two weeks before they became ill. Most of them were in Spain and France, but it is not certain that they became infected there.

Bonten wonders how many positive tests show up at Schiphol Airport, because travellers are not allowed to have symptoms of corona before boarding the plane. “If it turns out that the yield is low, you have to have the courage to say: we’ll deploy those people somewhere else.”

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport does not want Nieuwsuur to say how many of the 7255 coronavirus tests at Schiphol Airport were positive. Earlier, in response to parliamentary questions, Minister De Jonge wrote: “Making these data more widely known does not contribute further to a better control of the virus, but may, on the contrary, contribute to unnecessary anxiety.”